MADISON — Before Robert Foster announced he was going to run for governor, most Mississippians had never heard of him

With less than a month to go until the August Republican Party gubernatorial primary, he’s still a virtual unknown. To call Foster an underdog would be to vastly overrate his chances.

In a three-person race, the first-term legislator from Hernando ranks a distant fourth.

Foster recently gained some national attention for invoking the “Billy Graham Rule” when he refused permission for a female reporter to accompany him on a campaign ridealong unless her employer sent along a male employee. Larrison Campbell is a reporter for Jackson news website Mississippi Today. Ironically, she was the first to report that Foster was going to run for governor.

“I didn’t want to end up in a situation where me and Ms. Campbell were alone for an extended period of time … so out of precaution, I wanted her to bring someone with her –- a male colleague. The other thing I think it’s important to point out is that this is my truck, and in my truck we go by my rules and that’s my rule.”

The other two GOP candidates, Tate Reeves and Bill Waller Jr., had already allowed a male reporter to go on campaign trips with them without chaperones. Campbell and her employer decided that they didn’t want to be part of Foster’s sexism.

The website Community Digital News described the case in these cringe-worthy terms.

“Foster did say (Campbell) would be welcome if she brought a male to accompany her. His message was not subliminal. It was a direct message that he wanted no hint of any improprieties. Foster is a young man, with the wholesome good looks of Brett Kavanaugh. Campbell is an attractive woman.”

Graham, the legendary Christian evangelist, made it a rule to never be alone with a woman who wasn’t his wife in order to avoid accusations of scandal. Many married couples follow similar policies.

Colton Robison, Foster’s campaign manager, said that Foster’s opponents could use the image of Foster riding alone with a woman who isn’t his wife to smear him.

I find it unlikely that a campaign manager would allow any reporter, female or male, to be alone with a candidate. Won’t he go along on this 15-hour campaign trip to South Mississippi?

And, to be blunt, Campbell describes herself as “very openly gay.” (Not that it should matter.) It seems unlikely that Foster could woo her -– unless he’s the second coming of James Bond.

Unlike Graham, Foster is using his “rule” in a cynical ploy to advance his political career. His political stunt is more about publicity than morality. He’s been using it to score culture war points and raise money.

“Once again, the liberal left and Hollywood are attacking someone for their integrity, professionalism and Christian belief,” Foster wrote on his Facebook page.

“They aren’t just attacking me. They are attacking the countless Mississippians who also share these values. All the more reason we need someone leading Mississippi who will safeguard our traditional and conservative values.”

Does Tate Reeves know that Foster is stealing his material?

Charles Corder is a longtime editor and writer. Contact him at ccorderjr@outlook.com.

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