Tom Schweich’s political mentor said his death represents a low point of politics, and has called on an end to the type of campaigning that some say contributed to Schweich’s death last week.
A memorial service was held for Schweich, Missouri’s Auditor and a candidate for governor, this morning at the Church of St. Michael and St. George in Clayton, the Episcopal church where Schweich was a member. Schweich died Thursday morning in what police are investigating as an apparent suicide.
Former U.S. Senator John Danforth, an Episcopal minister, delivered the eulogy, printed in its entirety by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Danforth said Schweich was “upset” about a radio commercial that had attacked his physical appearance, but his greater concern was his belief that political opponents within the Republican Party were saying privately that he was Jewish — a so-called “whispering campaign” that Schweich believed was intended to hurt him among Evangelical Christian voters in the Republican party.
“This was more of an expression of personal hurt as with the radio ad,” said Danforth. “This was righteous indignation against what he saw as a terrible wrong. And what he saw was wrong is anti-Semitism.”
“Tom told me of his Jewish grandfather who taught him about anti-Semitism, and told him that anytime Tom Saw it he had to confront it, so Tom believed that was exactly what he must do,” Danforth said. “There was no hint by Tom that this was about him or his campaign. It was about confronting bigotry.”
Danforth decried the radio ad, which said Schweich resembled fictional character Barney Fife, was “bullying,” and called the person behind it a “bully.”
The ad was sponsored by the political action committee Citizens for Fairness in Missouri. The Post-Dispatch reports its deputy treasurer was, until February 16, James C. Thomas III, the campaign treasurer for the campaign of Schweich’s primary Republican opponent in the race for governor, Catherine Hanaway.
“We will see bullies for who they are,” said Danforth. “We will no longer let them hide behind their anonymous pseudo-committees.”
“Since Thursday some good people have said, ‘Well, that’s just politics,’ and Tom should have been less sensitive; he should have been tougher, and he should have been able to take it,” Danforth observed. “Well, that is accepting politics in its present state and that we cannot do. It amounts to blaming the victim, and it creates a new normal, where politics is only for the tough and the crude and the calloused.”
“Indeed, if this is what politics has become,” Danforth continued, “what decent person would want to get into it? We should encourage normal people – yes, sensitive people – to seek public office, not drive them away.”
Danforth closed his eulogy by calling for an end to the type of political campaigning he said had hurt his friend.
“I believe deep in my heart that it’s now our duty, yours and mine, to turn politics into something much better than its now so miserable state,” said Danforth.
Related story: Missouri senator calls for end to negative ads after Schweich’s death