A Republican candidate for Mississippi governor has refused to be interviewed by a female journalist unless she brings along a male colleague. Mississippi Today journalist Larrison Campbell said she requested to accompany candidate Robert Foster on a 15-hour "ride along" campaign trip ahead of the August 6 primary, but was denied because she is a woman.
According to Campbell, Foster's campaign director, Colton Robison, said she could not be alone in a car with Foster because "they believed the optics of the candidate with a woman, even a working reporter, could be used in a smear campaign to insinuate an extramarital affair."
Robison apparently told her the campaign "can't risk it" this close to the primary. They repeatedly told her they were worried about a smear campaign against Foster.
Foster confirmed his decision with a tweet Tuesday night. "Before our decision to run, my wife and I made a commitment to follow the 'Billy Graham Rule,' which is to avoid any situation that may evoke suspicion or compromise of our marriage," he tweeted.
It's the same "rule" brought into the spotlight by Vice President Mike Pence, who said he would not eat alone with any woman who is not his wife.
"In our case, it was a female reporter asking to ride along, and my campaign director is in and out and gone sometimes ... It's just going to be a lot of opportunities for an awkward situation I didn't want to put myself in ... We just wanted to keep things professional," Foster said in a radio interview with SuperTalk Mississippi radio host Paul Gallo.
Campbell said that she and her editor decided the request was "sexist and an unnecessary use of resources," given her political reporting experience. She told the campaign she would be attending alone, but they would not change their mind, she said.
"I wish it weren't the way it is," Robison told Campbell. "Unfortunately, this is the game we're playing right now."
According to The Associated Press, Foster is a first-term state lawmaker and has raised significantly less money than the other two Republicans seeking the gubernatorial nomination, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr.