JACKSON, Miss. — A Mississippi Republican gubernatorial candidate on Thursday stood by his decision to deny a female reporter’s request to accompany him on a campaign trip unless she brought along a male colleague, a move she says amounts to “sexism.”
“I didn’t want to end up in a situation where me and Ms. Campbell were alone for an extended period of time throughout that 15- or 16-hour day, and so out of precaution, I wanted to have her bring someone with her — a male colleague,” state Rep. Robert Foster said.
“The other thing I think it’s important to point out is that this is my truck, and in my truck, we go by my rules and that’s my rule.”
Larrison Campbell, a reporter for Mississippi Today who was denied the hours-long interview by Foster, expressed frustration with the situation.
“Look, we got to call this what it is: When a woman isn’t given access to the same things that a man would be given access to, it’s sexism,” she said.
Campbell wrote in Mississippi Today on Tuesday that the paper had asked to shadow each gubernatorial candidate seeking the GOP nomination “in an attempt to better inform readers” and that the other two candidates agreed to the request while Foster declined.
On Wednesday, Foster said on a Mississippi talk radio show that having a female reporter with him could create “an awkward situation,” and said on Twitter that his Christian faith and marriage were among the reasons to deny her access.
Asked if the need to exercise “precaution” was because he didn’t trust Campbell or himself, Foster said he was worried the situation might inadvertently create a false impression.
“I trust myself completely, but I don’t trust the perception that the world puts on people when they see things and they don’t ask the questions, they don’t look to find out the truth,” he said.
“Perception is reality in this world, and I don’t want to give anybody the opinion that I’m doing something that I should not be doing.”
Campbell questioned why the “onus” is on her to bring someone with her for the interview in order to make Foster more comfortable.
“Why is it my responsibility to make you feel comfortable about something that — you know, that again as your campaign director said on the phone with me — is this weird request that you have?” she said.
“Let’s go back to the ‘appearance of impropriety’ thing. Why does it appear improper for a man to be with a woman? I mean, why wouldn’t a gay affair be construed if he were with a man? Unless, at the end of the day, what you’re saying here is a woman is a sexual object first and a reporter second.”
Foster said his rule is “very professional” and noted the late evangelist Billy Graham and Vice President Mike Pence also maintained the same position.
“I’m a married man and I made a vow to my wife, and part of the agreement that we’ve also made throughout our marriage is that we would not be alone with someone of the opposite sex throughout our marriage, and that is a vow that I have with my wife,” he said, adding he puts it above “anyone else’s feelings, including yours.”