Two Mississippi Republican gubernatorial candidates say they refuse to meet with women alone.
Mississippi Today reporter Larrison Campbell reported earlier this month that state Rep. Robert Foster refused to bring her on a ride-along as other candidates had done with the paper’s reporters because she was a woman.
“In two phone calls this week, Colton Robison, Foster’s campaign director, said a male colleague would need to accompany this reporter 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.
“The only reason you think that people will think I’m having a (improper) relationship with your candidate is because I am a woman,” Campbell told Robison.
Robison replied that the campaign “can’t risk it.”
“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,” he said.
Campbell said Robison told her that she must being a male colleague to accompany her, which she and her editor determined was “sexist.”
The campaign refused to allow her to come alone.
Foster later doubled down on his position.
"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 wrote on Twitter. “I am sorry Ms. Campbell doesn't share these views, but my decision was out of respect of my wife."
"I refuse to change my moral stance on any issue because it's not popular among the radical left,” he later added. “My wife and the State of Mississippi deserve a governor who doesn't compromise their beliefs, and I'm sticking to my guns."
Second Republican refuses to meet with women alone:
Former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., who is also running for governor, told Mississippi Today that he also refuses to meet with women alone.
“I just think it’s common sense. I just think in this day and time, appearances are important and transparency’s important, and people need to have the comfort of what’s going on in government between employees and people. And there’s a lot of social issues out there about that. My goal is to not make it an issue so that everyone’s comfortable with the surroundings and we can go about our business,” Waller, 67, told the outlet.
Waller said he had never been alone with a female colleague during his 22 years on the state Supreme Court.
But Waller said he never asked a woman to bring a male chaperone to satisfy his rule.
“In my situation I always made sure that I was in control of the situation — that’s the way I do business,” he said.