JACKSON, Miss. -- A Republican candidate for Mississippi governor says he would not let a woman journalist follow him while campaigning unless she was accompanied by a male colleague — and now he's trying to raise campaign money based on that because he says the "liberal media" are attacking him.
"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," the candidate, Robert Foster, said in a fundraising email Wednesday. "I am sorry the liberal media doesn't share our views, but their attack on us is all the more reason we need a conservative that will protect these values we share."
Larrison Campbell with the online publication Mississippi Today wrote that she requested to "shadow" Foster to report about his campaign before the Aug. 6 primary, and his campaign director told her Foster wouldn't ride in a vehicle alone with her because people could insinuate Foster and Campbell are having an affair.
Foster told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he won't be alone with any woman other than his wife, even while working or campaigning, because of the possible public perception that he was doing something to hurt his marriage. He said being alone with a man is no problem.
Foster said he has hired women to work for the agricultural tourism business that he and his wife run in northern Mississippi, and that he would hire women staffers if he is elected governor. He said, however: "It's unprofessional to be alone with a woman who's not my wife."
Campbell wrote that Mississippi Today rejected Foster's condition that she bring a male colleague.
"My editor and I agreed the request was sexist and an unnecessary use of resources," Campbell wrote.
Foster, in response to a question from AP, said he could not ensure that one of his own male campaign staffers would always be with him if Campbell or another woman journalist were to ride along with him to ask questions for reporting.
Foster is a first-term state lawmaker and has raised significantly less money than the other two Republicans seeking the gubernatorial nomination, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr.
Attorney General Jim Hood has raised the most money among the eight Democrats running for governor.
The current governor, Republican Phil Bryant, could not seek a third term.
Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .