A Republican running for governor in Mississippi denied a female reporter’s request to accompany him on a campaign trip unless she brought along a male colleague, insisting Wednesday that he did so because he “just wanted to keep things professional.”
The reporter, Larrison 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.” While two of the candidates agreed, state Rep. Robert Foster declined, explaining on a Mississippi talk radio show Wednesday that having a female reporter with him could create “an awkward situation.”
Campbell, who said that she was the first to report on Foster’s plans to enter the gubernatorial race in November 2018, told CNN by phone Wednesday that she was in “disbelief” when Foster’s campaign manager, Colton Robinson, told her she wouldn’t be allowed to cover the campaign by herself.
“There really wasn’t any wiggle room, there was no getting around it,” she said. “I think it was like disbelief. I don’t think it was until I hung up that I got upset by it.”
Foster told SuperTalk Mississippi radio Wednesday, “It’s a ride-along request for a 16-hour day that we were going to be on the road. The other opponents of mine got a male reporter to ride along with them, which is a little bit different situation.
“In our case it was a female reporter asking to ride along, and my campaign director is in and out and gone sometimes — we have to divide and conquer — and there was just going to be a lot of opportunities where it would’ve been an awkward situation I didn’t want to put myself in.”
Foster also defended his decision on Twitter Wednesday, citing his Christian faith as the reason he denied access to Campbell.
“As I anticipated, the liberal left lost their minds over the fact I choose not to be alone with another woman,” he said. “They can’t believe, that even in 2019, someone still values their relationship with their wife and upholds their Christian Faith.”
Campbell said Wednesday it was uncomfortable for her, as a journalist, to be thrust into a story she was covering but, after Campell spoke with her editors, the paper decided to explain why Foster would get less coverage in Mississippi Today than the other GOP candidates.
“My job is to let the readers know what is happening in Mississippi,” she said. “I felt this was a service to our readers.”
Campbell added: “If it makes people angry, if it makes people fall in love with him, that’s besides the point. I sort of see this as a part of the public service of the job.”
Campbell also warned against the assumption that her denied access to Foster’s campaign is a “Mississippi story,” positing Wednesday that women everywhere are “sexualized” as they try to do their jobs.
“I don’t think this is a Mississippi story,” she said. “I think it’s a universal story.”
The Foster campaign did not respond to CNN’s request for comment Wednesday. His campaign website describes him as a “man of faith” and “conservative outsider.”
The Mississippi gubernatorial election will be on November 5.