On Tuesday, Mississippi Today journalist Larrison Campbell reported that her team had reached out to the three gubernatorial candidates seeking the Republican nomination, asking to shadow them on the campaign — a request that one politician denied. His reason: He didn’t want to be alone with a female reporter. Today, Campbell skewered the GOP candidate on CNN’s New Day, slamming his decision as a blatant example of sexism.
Per Mississippi Today, weeks after Campbell put out the requests to the GOP candidates, State Representative Robert Foster’s campaign director sent her a peculiar demand: that she would have to bring along “a male colleague,” since “the optics of the candidate with a woman, even a working reporter, could be used in a smear campaign to insinuate an extramarital affair.” This response was swiftly met with widespread backlash, which Campbell addressed Thursday morning on CNN.
In the beginning of the tense segment, anchor John Berman explicitly asked Foster, who phoned into CNN, whether he would’ve granted access to a male reporter. Without missing a beat, he responded affirmatively, and then attempted to explain his reasoning.
“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,” Foster said, adding that “in [his] truck,” he gets to make the rules. Then, when pushed by Berman to explain who in this situation he wouldn’t have trusted, Foster argued that the public would’ve perceived it as improper for him to be alone with a woman.
Larrison, who vacillated between looking amused and annoyed as Foster spoke, demanded to know why it would be “[her] responsibility to make [him] feel comfortable.” She then goes for the jugular: “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.”
In response, Foster pulled a page from Mike Pence’s textbook and brought up his wife, to whom he says he made a promise — that he puts above “anyone else’s feelings, including [Larrison’s]” — to never be alone with another woman.
“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 says.
First, Foster faces backlash on social media following his initial denial; then, he gets skewered on TV. And yet, it appears that he still stands by his original decision.