A female reporter covering the campaign of a Mississippi Republican gubernatorial candidate was basically told she couldn’t do a ride-along unless she brought a man along.
Larrison Campbell, a reporter for Mississippi Today, wanted to shadow state Rep. Robert Foster on the campaign trail and report from his car — a pretty standard request for a reporter. The other contenders in the race, Bill Waller and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, were fine with the so-called “ride-along” request. Foster, however, turned her away, he said, because having a woman near him might make it look as if he were having an extramarital affair.
The 36-year-old has held state office since he was elected in 2015.
“Perception is everything. We are so close to the primary. If (trackers) were to get a picture and they put a mailer out, we wouldn’t have time to dispute it. And that’s why we have to be careful,” Colton Robinson, Foster’s campaign director, told Campbell.
Campbell recounted the discriminatory experience in a column for her news outlet Tuesday, sparking outrage from journalists and politicians who saw the decision as odd, arcane and sexist. Campbell said Robinson told her she’d need to bring a male colleague if she wanted to cover the story. She said she wasn’t going to do that but would wear a press badge in plain few. The campaign declined yet again.
The candidate tried to defend his campaign’s position on Twitter, saying he and his wife had agreed to follow the “Billy Graham” rule adopted by some evangelical Christians who believe it’s wrong to be alone with a woman you’re not married to. Notably, Vice President Mike Pence also won’t dine alone with a woman he’s not married to.
“I am sorry Ms. Campbell doesn’t share these views, but my decision was out of respect of my wife,” Foster said.
He grew increasingly defensive on Twitter throughout the day, writing “the liberal left lost their minds over the fact I choose not to be alone with another woman. They can’t believe, that even in 2019, someone still values their relationship with their wife and upholds their Christian Faith.” He later doubled down and said he was “sticking to my guns.”
Thursday morning, Foster defended his decision to block Campbell from the ride-along by tweeting: “This is my truck, and in my truck we go by my rules.”
A June poll showed Reeves as the leading Republican candidate, with Foster falling last in voter favor.
Cover: Rep. Robert Foster, R-Hernando, a first term lawmaker who is a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, addresses editors and publishers at the annual Mississippi Press Association Candidates Forum in Biloxi, Miss., Friday, June 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)