A female reporter who was denied access to a Mississippi gubernatorial candidate because he didn’t want to be seen spending time alone with a woman who is not his wife says, “How’s that not sexism?”
The candidate meanwhile is using the controversy in a campaign fundraising email that says the "liberal media" and Hollywood "are attacking me for my Christian faith and choosing not to be alone with another woman," according to a report in Mississippi Today.
One of Mississippi Today's reporters, Larrison Campbell, revealed Tuesday that when she asked to follow Republican candidate Robert Foster on the campaign trail, his staff said she would have to bring a male colleague along. Foster told The Associated Press he made the request because "it's unprofessional to be alone with a woman who's not my wife."
Campbell reported that Foster’s team insisted she comply, even though his male campaign manager would be with them, because the candidate didn’t want to risk the optics of people thinking that he and she had an improper relationship.
Mississippi Today denied the request. "This is unprecedented, even in our experiences," Ryan Nave, the outlet's editor told NBC News. "This is the first time a candidate has made this kind of request."
Campbell said she wrote the story about Foster's denying her access because she wanted to be transparent with readers.
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"We wanted to let our readers know why Foster wouldn't receive the same coverage as his two opponents," Campbell told NBC News. "We tried to offer the campaign the same opportunity, and they refused it."
Campbell says she has a working relationship with Foster and has covered him before. "I think their familiarity with my work was what got me the access in the first place. I've interviewed him before, at the capital, at events, on the phone."
On Twitter on Wednesday evening, Campbell further articulated why she found the request sexist, “Why, you ask, would this guy not see the absurdity of demanding I bring in the reinforcements he requires?” she wrote, adding, “Uh... probably because at the end of the day, he doesn't see me as someone who belongs there.”
Campbell, who identifies as a lesbian, says she doesn't think the decision has to do with her sexuality. "I actually think that's beside the point," she said. "It's not about the fact that I'm not even a woman who would be likely to have an affair with this candidate. It's the fact that a woman in a work context is deemed potentially inappropriate and immediately sexualized."
Campbell said Foster’s decision reveals how he sees and treats women, and compared him to Vice President Mike Pence, who limits one-on-one meetings with women.
Foster, who is running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in the Aug. 6 primary against Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., has doubled down on his position.
“I refuse to change my moral stance on any issue because it’s not popular among the radical left," he tweeted Wednesday night. "My wife and the State of Mississippi deserve a governor who doesn’t compromise their beliefs, and I’m sticking to my guns."
In light of the #MeToo movement, he said he doesn't want to put himself in a "he said, she said" position.
"I will not be intimidated into a corner of silence by a group of radical Socialists and Communists whose goal in life is to dismantle America," Foster tweeted. "In fact, I’m looking forward to fighting their radical, left-wing agenda."
"He's running on this," Campbell said of the controversy.
Campbell said she is simply trying to do her job as a journalist. “I wanted to cover Foster because I love my job. His campaign refused my request because they sexualized me. How's that not sexism?”
The Foster campaign did not respond to NBC News' request for comment.