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17 Jul 2019 22:46
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  •   Home > News > International

    US politician refuses to be alone with female reporter for fear of extramarital affair rumours

    The Republican candidate vying to be the governor of Mississippi stands by his decision to deny a female reporter access to a campaign trip ride along without a male chaperone, saying he made a commitment with his wife not to "compromise" their marriage.


    A US politician says his decision to deny a female reporter access to a campaign trip ride along without a male chaperone was out of respect to his wife.

    Robert Foster said before he decided to run as a Republican candidate for Mississippi governor, he made a commitment to his wife to follow the "Billy Graham Rule".

    He explained the rule, promoted by the evangelical preacher, was to "avoid any situation that may evoke suspicion or compromise of our marriage".

    He half apologised to Mississippi Today reporter Larrison Campbell, saying he was sorry that she "doesn't share these views" but that his decision was "out of respect" to his wife.

    What happened?

    In the lead-up to the Republican gubernatorial primary — a state election where party members vote to choose their candidate — the news website asked to shadow each of the contenders.

    The male reporter was allowed to ride along the campaign trail with candidate Bill Waller, but Campbell was refused by Mr Foster because she was a woman.

    Campbell said a campaign director had told her that she would need to be accompanied by a male colleague on the 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 said she was told the campaign simply "couldn't risk it" and that "perception is everything".

    The story has generated considerable interest across the world, with national and international media reporting what happened.

    A similar thing happened in 2017, when the Washington Post reported that in 2002, Mike Pence (now Vice-President) had told a reporter he "never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won't attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side".

    Mr Foster took to Twitter to describe the bad press as an attack on his "integrity, professionalism, and Christian beliefs".

    "I've always had the same practice in business, I'm not alone with a female employ and putting myself in a position to have a 'he-said-she-said moment'," he told a local radio show.

    "I just want to always have that buffer there of having a system of professionalism."

    'My Truck. My Rules'

    The two then went head to head on CNN. Mr Foster maintained it was "my truck, my rules", but Campbell called that out as being sexist.

    Mr Foster has since doubled down on his decision, tweeting that he was avoiding the appearance of evil.

    In her own Twitter thread, Campbell said Mr Foster's "rule" was about sexism, not self-protection.

    "See, most folks, when they see a man in a work setting … assume that the man is there to work, not sleep with the person they're next to. That's because to most people, men are people first, not sexual objects," she wrote.

    "Women don't get the same courtesy. The 'appearance of impropriety' arises only when you see a reporter, not as a reporter, but as a sexual object.

    "I wanted to cover Foster because I love my job. His campaign refused my request because they sexualised me. How's that not sexism?"

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved


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