A Republican candidate for Mississippi governor told a female reporter that he couldn’t be interviewed by her unless she was accompanied by a male colleague — later claiming that he was following “the Billy Graham Rule.”
“We just wanted to keep things professional,” said GOP hopeful Robert Foster in a radio interview on Tuesday.
The female reporter, Larrison Campbell of Mississippi Today, had been asking to go on a “ride along” with Foster when his campaign director reportedly refused on his behalf.
“In two phone calls this week, Colton Robison, Foster’s campaign director, said a male colleague would need to accompany [Campbell] on an upcoming 15-hour campaign trip 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,” Campbell wrote in a column Tuesday.
“The only reason you think that people will think I’m having a (improper) relationship with your candidate is because I am a woman,” she reportedly told Robinson, to which he said: “Can’t risk it.”
“Perception is everything,” Robison added, according to Campbell. “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.”
Foster, a first-term state lawmaker, corroborated Campbell’s claims in a tweet late Tuesday — saying he was only trying to be respectful towards his wife.
“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,” Foster said. “I am sorry Ms. Campbell doesn’t share these views, but my decision was out of respect of my wife.”
Vice President Mike Pence used a similar excuse back in 2002 when he reportedly told The Hill that he refuses to eat alone with any woman other than 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,” Foster explained in his radio interview Wednesday. “It’s just going to be a lot of opportunities for an awkward situation I didn’t want to put myself in.”
The gubernatorial candidate added, “There’s only one person that comes to mind more than anyone and that’s my wife. I’ve always had the same practice in business. I’m not alone with a female employee and put myself in a situation to have a ‘he said, she said moment.’”
Foster was receiving backlash Wednesday in response to his decision, and issued multiple statements in response.
“As I anticipated, the liberal left lost their minds over the fact I choose not to be alone with another woman,” he tweeted. “They can’t believe, that even in 2019, someone still values their relationship with their wife and upholds their Christian Faith.”
Hours later, he added: “I will not be intimidated into a corner of silence by a group of radical Socialists and Communists whose goal in life is to dismantle America. In fact, I’m looking forward to fighting their radical, left-wing agenda.”
Story cited here.