A Republican running to become governor of Mississippi doubled down on his decision to bar a female reporter from a day in his campaign.
State Rep. Robert Foster was not backing down from his request that Mississippi Today reporter Larrison Campbell be accompanied by a male if she wanted to cover the candidate on a day trip in his truck, according to CNN.
The Republican candidate tweeted “My truck. My rules” following a heated exchange on CNN’s “New Day” Thursday as he squared off with Campbell and tried to explain his decision to “keep things professional” between them.
My truck. My rules.
— Robert Foster (@RobertFoster4MS) July 11, 2019
Campbell explained how she was ready to spend a day on the campaign trail with Foster but he refused to let her have a “ride-along” in his truck, asking her to bring a male colleague along just “out of precaution.” Foster’s campaign director had informed the reporter of the decision, telling her about concerns on the “optics.”
(Video: CBS News)
“If a man reporter had asked for a ride-along, would you have granted him a solo interview?” CNN anchor John Berman asked the GOP candidate Thursday.
“I would have,” Foster replied. “I didn’t want to end up in a situation where me and Ms. Campbell were alone for an extended period of time within that 15 to 16-hour day. So out of precaution, I wanted to have her bring someone with her, a male colleague.”
He also made an important extra distinction.
“The other thing that I think is important to point out is that this my truck, and in my truck we go by my rules,” Foster told Berman. “And that’s my rule.”
Foster explained that he wanted to avoid a potentially “awkward situation” if he were alone with Campbell at any time during the day’s activities.
“Is it you didn’t trust Larrison or you didn’t trust yourself?” Berman asked.
“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 and don’t look to find out the truth,” Foster responded. “Perception is reality in this world and I don’t want to give anybody the opinion I’m doing something I should not be doing.”
Campbell shot back with a question of her own.
“First of all, like you said, it’s your truck, it’s your rules,” she said. “Why is it my responsibility to make you feel comfortable about something that, again, as your campaign director said on the phone with me, is this weird request that you have? Why was I the one — why is the onus on me to bring someone along?”
Foster explained that she was the one who asked for the ride-along as part of her story coverage.
“No other candidates have ever had a rule like this,” Campbell countered. “Why does it appear improper for a man to be with a woman? Why wouldn’t, like, a gay affair be construed if you 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.”
“People when they see a woman with a man are going to automatically assume that she’s there with an improper relationship because, again, they see a woman as a sexual object first and as someone who’s doing my job second, she added.
The GOP candidate explained that he had made a vow to his wife to never be alone with another woman and he “put that … above anyone else’s feelings.”
“I apologize to you for that, that it may hurt your feelings, but I would much rather uphold my vows to my wife over anyone else,” he said. “I’m not ever going to be put in a situation with any female to where they could make an accusation against me and there’s not a witness there to refute that accusation.”
Foster’s stance seemed to really irk Campbell and even Berman who pressed, “What do you think would happen if you’re alone in a room with Larrison? What happens in your truck that’s different from a room with an open door?”
“We got to call this what it is,” Campbell insisted. “When a woman isn’t given access to the same things that a man would be given access to, it’s sexism.”
But Foster wasn’t about to let them intimidate him or rattle his Christian faith-based practice, reiterating that being alone with a woman professionally when an office door could be left open or others are present in another room is very f=different that having a 16-hour day together in his truck.
“It’s the perception. And that’s a rule that I’ve always had and I’ve always followed,” he said, noting that the “professional” behavior has been followed by others such as the late Rev. Billy Graham, Vice President Mike Pence and more.
Asked about the optics and what objections someone would have to his rule, Foster concluded that he was “not going to give them the opportunity” to think anything is going on.
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