By Ellen Wulfhorst
NEW YORK, July 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The refusal of a U.S. political candidate to ride with a female reporter unless a man was present sparked a social media storm on Wednesday, as the Mississippi conservative was lambasted for his stance.
Reporter Larrison Campbell asked to ride with Republican Robert Foster on a 15-hour campaign trip but was told by his campaign staff that a male colleague would have to accompany her.
Foster is running for governor in the conservative southern state.
Campbell wrote on the online news site Mississippi Today, where she covers politics, that she was told "the optics of the candidate with a woman, even a working reporter, could be used in a smear campaign to insinuate an extramarital affair."
The campaign simply "can't risk it," she said she was told.
"My editor and I agreed the request was sexist" and opted not to comply, Campbell wrote.
Foster took to social media in response on Wednesday, posting on Twitter: "As I anticipated, the liberal left lost their minds over the fact I choose not to be alone with another woman."
"They can't believe, that even in 2019, someone still values their relationship with their wife and upholds their Christian Faith."
As I anticipated, the liberal left lost their minds over the fact I choose not to be alone with another woman. They can’t believe, that even in 2019, someone still values their relationship with their wife and upholds their Christian Faith. #msgov #mselex— Robert Foster (@RobertFoster4MS) July 10, 2019
He wrote that he and his wife followed the "Billy Graham Rule," a practice attributed to the late evangelical preacher not to spend time alone with any woman other than his wife.
A torrent of Twitter writers quickly fired back, most of them denouncing Foster's position.
"Maybe Robert Foster shouldn't be in public office if he has such extreme religious views and/or can't control himself around women?" wrote one.
But one supporting Foster posted "You for sure have our vote now."
Foster's position was reminiscent of Vice President Mike Pence, who has stated in interviews he would not eat alone with a woman other than his wife.
The Mississippi candidate holds right-wing positions such as opposing changes to the Mississippi state flag, which features a Confederate symbol, which some associate with slavery in the U.S.
(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Chris Michaud)
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