Republican gubernatorial candidate Rep. Robert Foster recently turned down Mississippi Today’s request to shadow him for one day on his campaign, while Bill Waller and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves both agreed to ride alongs, intended to inform readers more about each candidate before the August primaries.

Foster’s campaign manager, Colton Robison responded to Larrison Campbell, a political reporter for Mississippi Today, with what he referred to as a “weird request,” to bring along a male colleague for the ride along.

The denial of a professional female journalist to do her job escalated quickly through all mediums. Foster said his reason was the “Billy Graham rule,” refusing to be alone with any woman other than his wife.” He added, “his truck, his rules.”

“Perception is everything. We are so close to the primary. If (trackers) were to get a picture and they put a mailer out, we wouldn’t have time to dispute it. And that’s why we have to be careful,” Robison told Larrison Campbell in a phone interview.

We recognize and think Foster dedication to his wife and marriage is commendable. If he had any concerns, he should have just respectfully declined. As a private citizen, that would be his choice to make.

Some say this was Foster’s way to gain more name recognition and support in the campaign – who’s to say, especially since #MyTruckMyRules t-shirts are now showing up all over social media. And he’s certainly in the national spotlight.

But think how differently this could have played out if he had recognized Campbell as a professional woman trying to do her job.

Instead, he put the onus on her. If Foster didn’t want any chances of impropriety, then anyone from his camp or family could have gone along on the 15-hour ride along.

It’s important to remember that the governor represents all Mississippians. And it should be noted that there are more women than men in Mississippi. According to the U.S. Census, there are 84,967 more women than men in the state, with a gender ratio of 94 men to 100 women.

The governor appoints many positions. If elected, does this mean he will exclude women from any leadership positions in order to eliminate suspicion of wrong-doing? How will he work effectively with any top elected officials who are female?

His response sends an alarming message. Females in the workplace could lose opportunities. If employers feel uneasy in hiring a woman, believing a male would be uncomfortable working alone with her, this closes doors. Since it doesn’t seem to be a question when the situation is reversed – since Foster had no problem riding along with a male – it’s blatant discrimination.

It sends a message to potential employers that women are less than. We want women to stay in Mississippi and also come to Mississippi to work and be contributing citizens in our communities.

Women should not be excluded from opportunities of leadership, nor should they be hampered in doing their professional jobs.

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