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Schweich donor makes key change in claim that state GOP chairman made anti-Semitic comment

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Prominent Republican donor David Humphreys has revised his sworn affidavit that initially accused Missouri GOP chairman John Hancock of making an anti-Semitic remark about state Auditor Tom Schweich, adding a new element to the internal GOP battle that has raged since Schweich's Feb. 26 suicide.

In a statement sent Monday, Humphreys backed away from his earlier claim that Hancock's alleged statements were made Nov. 24. Humphreys issued a revised affidavit saying the comments were made at a meeting in September.

That change is significant because Hancock, who is accused of conducting a "whispering campaign'' against Schweich, has admitted that he may have made a casual reference to Humphreys in September that he thought Schweich was Jewish.

Hancock has been adamant that he made no such comments at the November meeting, which was after he had learned from former Sen. John C. Danforth that Schweich was not Jewish. Hancock has said that he subsequently apologized to Schweich. 

Schweich's father and grandfather were Jewish, but he was Episcopalian as is Danforth, an ordained minister.

Said Humphreys in a statement Monday: “I apologize for the incorrect date reference. While I am embarrassed to have unintentionally confused the meeting dates, I reaffirm the balance of my affidavit about Hancock’s comments. I am attaching an amended affidavit to reflect the corrected date.”

Hancock replied in an interview, "I am grateful Mr. Humphreys took the time to consider the truth. He's a good man."

John Hancock at 2015 Lincoln Days
Credit Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio
John Hancock

But Hancock continued to take issue with Humphreys' assertion that he had been offended by Hancock's erroneous comment about Schweich's religion.

Hancock has maintained that any comment was made within the context of a general discussion about religion and its influence on voters. Hancock had been working for Schweich's rival for governor, former state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, who is Catholic.

Hancock said that during their later November meeting, Humphreys "did not raise a single concern about comments I had previously made. I left the meeting thinking that we were friends."

Schweich was campaigning for governor when he shot himself Feb. 26 at his home in Clayton. He was on the phone with Danforth's aide Martha Fitz, complaining about an alleged anti-Semitic campaign orchestrated by Hancock.

Credit Friends of Tom Schweich
Tom Schweich

Schweich was upset that Hancock had been elected the new state Republican Party chairman just five days earlier, in part because of Hancock's ties to Hanaway.

Hancock has denied making any disparaging remarks about Schweich's religion, a point of contention among Danforth and other of Schweich's allies. Danforth had cited the alleged anti-Semitic campaign in his homily at Schweich's funeral.

Danforth has called for Hancock to be ousted as party chairman. So far, the state party's executive committee, which elected Hancock, has not taken any action. Several other prominent Republican donors, including Clayton businessman Sam Fox, issued a statement Friday defending Danforth.

Meanwhile, St. Louis County Republican Party chairman Bruce Buwalda reported that the controversy didn't appear to affect the mood of the county's Lincoln Day dinner Saturday night. The Danforth-Hancock dispute was not discussed specifically by any speakers, he said.

Overall, he said, the evening's atmosphere "was upbeat,'' with various speakers calling for unity.

Buwalda said Schweich's photo was displayed at the cocktail reception, where the auditor had been scheduled to speak.  Buwalda had been a supporter of Schweich's campaign for governor. But as a member of the state executive committee, Buwalda also wants Hancock to stay on as chairman.