During the 2016 presidential campaign, a comment by now-Vice President Mike Pence from 2002 resurfaced, in which he explained that he abided by a personal rule never to be alone in a room with another woman unless it was his wife.
According to reporting from the New York Times, that comment elicited plenty of questions and condemnations from people across the country who were concerned over whether a person, seeking such a high office and yet who didn’t trust themselves to be alone with a woman, was a good fit for the role. Some even suggested Pence’s words implied he viewed women solely as sexual objects.
Presently, there appears to be another candidate, running for governor of Mississippi, who is abiding by a similar rule.
Far-right conservative candidate Robert Foster is running for governor as a Republican. His campaign, currently trying to win the party’s primary race, was planning a 15-hour trip across the state. A news publication called Mississippi Today asked if the campaign wanted to have a reporter tag alone, as it had been doing for other candidates involved in the election.
Mississipi Today had planned to send reporter Larrison Campbell to cover Foster’s trek. After all, Campbell had been the one who broke the news of Foster’s announced run to begin with, and has interviewed him several times in the state Capitol building.
The Foster campaign balked, stating that Campbell could only come along if she had a male chaperone from the publication along with her.
Their reasoning? Foster’s campaign director, Colton Robison, stated that they were worried a woman seen on the campaign, alongside Foster, could be perceived as having an affair by his opponents, who could use the imagery against him in campaign flyers.
— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) July 10, 2019
Per reporting from Mississippi Today, in an article she wrote herself, Campbell responded to Robison’s rejection by stating that the “only reason you think that people will think I’m having a (improper) relationship with your candidate is because I am a woman.”
Robison replied that the campaign “can’t risk it.”
“Perception is everything,” Robison explained to the reporter. “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.”
The story, which broke on Mississippi Today on Tuesday, soon made national headlines. Foster apparently didn’t like those optics either, and tweeted out that liberal news organizations, like the Washington Post, were out to get him.
In an earlier tweet, the candidate tried to justify his decision not to have a female reporter cover him. Foster explained that he and his wife decided to follow the “Billy Graham Rule” when he made the decision to run for governor. His choice to avoid being seen with a woman is to “avoid any situation that may evoke suspicion or compromise of our marriage,” he wrote.
Campbell made several offers to appear with the campaign wearing apparel and a press badge that would make it clear that she had nothing to do with the candidate, even if her picture was taken alongside Foster. The campaign still refused to budge.
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Chris Walker is a freelance writer based out of Madison, Wisconsin. A millennial with more than a decade of journalism experience, Chris aims to provide readers with the latest and most accurate news of national importance. Chris likes to spend his free time doing activities in his community with his family.