Mississippi Today reporter Larrison Campbell on Tuesday said that GOP gubernatorial candidate Robert Foster’s campaign denied her request to shadow him on a campaign event — unless she was accompanied by a male colleague.
In a post on Tuesday, Campbell said Foster’s campaign director Colton Robison denied her request to travel solo with the state representative as he campaigns ahead of the Republican gubernatorial primary, because he “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.”
“Can’t risk it,” Robison told Campbell. “Perception is everything. 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.”
A male reporter at Mississippi Today, Adam Ganucheau, was granted permission to ride along with the two other candidates, Bill Waller, a former state supreme court chief justice, and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.
Campbell has interviewed Foster numerous times and has broken stories about the politician, whose platform is to the right of his Republican rivals as he seeks to appeal to Tea Party conservatives with his support for the state flag which features the Confederate battle emblem.
Foster defended his decision to exclude Campbell. “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 wrote on Twitter late Tuesday. “I am sorry Ms. Campbell doesn’t share these views, but my decision was out of respect of my wife.”
In an email to TheWrap, Foster added, “We don’t mind granting Ms. Campbell an interview. We just want it to be in an appropriate and professional setting that wouldn’t provide opportunities for us to be alone.”
Ganucheau, too, weighed in on Twitter, writing, “The great irony here: Larrison broke the news of Foster’s candidacy. Larrison broke the news that he was offered $1M to drop out. Larrison drove to his hometown for his announcement. Robert Foster arguably isn’t where he is in this race without [her] coverage.”
Reps for Waller and Reeves’ campaigns did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
For the record: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story had the incorrect date for Larrison’s post and Foster’s response.