Female journalist told she needs male chaperone to cover campaign
A Republican candidate for Mississippi governor has been accused of sexism after he banned a female political reporter from going on a campaign trip without a male chaperone for fear of being accused of an extramarital affair.
Earlier this week, Robert Foster’s campaign denied requests from Larrison Campbell, a reporter for Mississippi Today, to shadow him on the campaign trail ahead of next month’s primary election – unless she was accompanied by a male colleague.
His campaign told her they feared if somebody took pictures of him with Campbell, they could be used by rivals to smear him.
Campbell told the Guardian she was “shocked” when she was told Foster would not cooperate without a male colleague present because he had initially seemed interested when she approached him about reporting a story and they had an established working relationship.
“Really up until the last couple of minutes of our conversation I really assumed that we’d find a way to make it work and I was shocked that this was a deal breaker. That my being a woman was such a deal breaker,” she said.
In an article about the incident for Mississippi Today, Campbell said: “In two phone calls this week, Colton Robison, Foster’s campaign director, said a male colleague would need to accompany this reporter on an upcoming 15-hour campaign trip because they believed the optics of the candidate with a woman, even a working reporter, could be used in a smear campaign to insinuate an extramarital affair.”
Campbell and her editor agreed the request was “sexist” and an “unnecessary use” of newsroom resources and that she should do the story alone. But when she informed the campaign, they insisted she would not be allowed.
“He reiterated that the campaign couldn’t agree unless a male colleague was present – this despite my offering to wear a Mississippi Today press badge in plain view at all times. But Robison insisted that trackers are trying to get any footage that would make the candidate look bad,” she wrote.
Foster stood by his decision, saying he did so “out of respect” for his wife, Heather, with whom he is pictured multiple times on his campaign website.
“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,” he tweeted on Tuesday. “I am sorry Ms Campbell doesn’t share these views, but my decision was out of respect of my wife.”
How convenient - the Billy Graham rule. Are all the male journalists white, heterosexual, Christian?