"My decision was out of respect of my wife," said Mississippi Republican state representative Robert Foster

By Dave Quinn
July 11, 2019 10:41 AM
Robert Foster
Rogelio V Solis/AP/Shutterstock

Robert Foster, a Republican state representative in Mississippi running for governor, has refused to let a female journalist shadow him on a campaign trip because he said he feared others might suspect he was having an extramarital affair.

“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, 36, tweeted on Tuesday — referencing the practice named after the late Christian evangelist, who famously did not spend time alone with any woman who was not his wife.

Foster was responding to a report from Mississippi Today journalist Larrison Campbell. Earlier on Tuesday, she wrote that Foster’s campaign manager, Colton Robison, had banned her from shadowing the politician on a 15-hour “ride-along” campaign trip around the state unless she had a male colleague with her.

“My editor and I agreed the request was sexist and an unnecessary use of resources given this reporter’s experience covering Mississippi politics,” Campbell wrote.

Robison had reportedly argued to her that the optics of a candidate being alone with a woman was too dangerous.

“Can’t risk it,” Robison said, according to Campbell’s report. “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.”

Foster, who shares two young kids with his wife, has since doubled down on Twitter. He blamed “the radical left” for criticism that he was placing conditions on letting a reporter cover him because of her gender.

“I am sorry Ms. Campbell doesn’t share these views, but my decision was out of respect of my wife,” he wrote on Tuesday.

Foster is a self-described “underdog candidate” in the race for the gubernatorial nomination, starting a grassroots campaign to battle Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. for the Republican nomination.

On Thursday, Foster and Campbell discussed the issue on CNN.

“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,” Foster said, calling his policy “a very professional rule.”

Campbell said in response: “At the end of the day, what you’re saying here is a women is a sexual object first and a reporter second.”