JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A prominent Republican donor stepped forward Thursday to back up assertions that Missouri's GOP chairman had made negative remarks about the religion of the state auditor, who killed himself amid perceptions he was the target of an anti-Semitic whispering campaign.
Republican businessman and donor David Humphreys released a signed affidavit saying Republican consultant John Hancock, who later was elected head of the party, told him on Nov. 24 that Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich was Jewish.
"The meaning I took from Mr. Hancock's statement and tone of his comments was clear: He (Tom Schweich) is Jewish — in case you didn't know — and that being Jewish is a negative attribute for Tom Schweich's gubernatorial race," Humphreys said in the affidavit.
Humphreys is the first person to publicly attest to hearing such comments from Hancock.
Hancock said Thursday that he had met with Humpheys at the businessman's Joplin office to discuss Republican Party fundraising efforts, but he denied saying anything about Schweich's religion.
"It didn't happen," Hancock said.
Paul Mouton, a Republican Party insider who is acquainted with both Hancock and Humphreys, said he also was at the Nov. 24 meeting. His recollection backs up Hancock's account.
"I did not hear him say anything about Tom Schweich being Jewish," Mouton told the AP.
Schweich fatally shot himself Feb. 26 at his home in the St. Louis suburb of Clayton, just a month after declaring his candidacy for the Republican nomination for governor. The shooting occurred minutes after Schweich told an Associated Press reporter that he was ready to go public with allegations that Hancock had made anti-Semitic remarks about him.
Schweich had Jewish ancestry but attended an Episcopal church.
Former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, an Episcopal minister who was Schweich's friend and political mentor, delivered the eulogy at Schweich's funeral and suggested his friend had been driven to suicide by political bullying and an anti-Semitic whispering campaign.
Danforth said Thursday that he asked Humphreys to come forward with his account, because Hancock has denied making such remarks. He said the Republican State Committee should oust Hancock from the chairmanship.
"The brand of the Republican Party in Missouri has been badly damaged, and it's very important to set the record clear," Danforth told the AP. "I think it's important for Republicans to dissociate themselves from what has happened in the campaign against Tom Schweich."
Hancock has said previously that he had mistakenly believed Schweich was Jewish and, although he had no specific recollection of doing so, has said it's possible he might have mentioned that in an off-handed way while talking to prospective donors. Hancock said he learned the truth about Schweich's religion during a pair of conversations Nov. 14 with Danforth and Schweich, and he said he certainly never mentioned Schweich was Jewish after that.
"I did meet with David Humphreys on Nov. 24," as Hancock was running for GOP chairman, he said. But "I would not have said Tom Schweich was Jewish at that meeting, because I knew that he wasn't at that point."
Hancock said he also met with Humphreys on Sept. 12, as he was raising money for a Catholic voter registration effort. He said it's possible he may have mentioned Schweich was Jewish during that meeting but he has no recollection of doing so.
Hancock said he has no plans to step down as party chairman, a post to which he was elected on Feb. 21 while pledging to improve the party's fundraising.
Humphreys, who had given generously to Schweich and various Republican causes, said he has no intention of giving money to Hancock for any reason.
At the time of his death, Schweich was campaigning for governor against Republican Catherine Hanaway, a former Missouri House Speaker and U.S. attorney. Hancock had done political research for Hanaway's campaign, but Hancock said his efforts were focused on the likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Chris Koster, not on Schweich.
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