CNN grills candidate who denied opportunistic female reporter access: What if she was a gay man?

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Screen capture … CNN’s Michael Smerconish and Mississippi Rep. Robert Foster … Credit: CNN

CNN reporter Michael Smerconish had to painfully stretch and twist an interview into an illogical, hypothetical scenario in his efforts to try to corner a conservative Mississippi gubernatorial candidate on Saturday. The host came up empty when he finally asked if a reporter was a gay man and wanted to ride along all day, if Republican Robert Foster would agree to allowing that reporter in his truck.

In the end, Foster showed himself to be a thoughtful man of faith who could not be bamboozled.

The story that shouldn’t be a story in the first place arose when the candidate requested a female reporter from Mississippi Today bring a male colleague along if she wanted to do a 15 to 16-hour ride-along interview in his truck. That female reporter, Larrison Campbell, said she took offense and of course found her opportunity to fabricate an outrage she could promote and presumably raise her professional visibility and stature.

Foster and Campbell squared off on CNN on Thursday and the Mississippi politician tweeted afterward a simple bottom line to his decision: “My truck. My rules.”

In Saturday’s interview, Foster explained at length to Smerconish his rationale for asking for a male colleague to ride along with Campbell. Boiled down, he was wary of public perceptions of being seen alone with a woman other than his wife riding across the state all day long.

Foster also pointed out that in today’s “hashtag MeToo” environment, he was unwilling to put himself at risk when far into the future, someone could see fit to create a false charge against him for which he had no witnesses to back him up in his own defense.

Watch the CNN reporter and Foster volley back and forth below. Part one …

Video by CNN

Foster also clearly stated that his commitments to his wife and to God were head and shoulders above anyone else’s feelings.

“The biggest thing here,” the candidate said, “I had a vow with my wife that I put first and foremost above anybody else’s feelings. I understand that she [Campbell] was offended, but my vow to my wife and my faith go before anybody else’s personal feelings.

“I choose to live my life by putting God first in everything that I do and putting my wife and family second and everything else comes after that to me,” he added. “And I’m not going to change that for anybody else’s views. The thing that everybody either needs to think about too is that when I’m alone in a vehicle with a woman that is not my wife, people may perceive there to be something going on whether there is or not. And the other thing that has to be taken into consideration is that now in the #MeToo movement era, people can accuse me 10, 15 years later of assaulting them and I have no witness there. So I have to protect myself in my personal and professional life.”

Smerconish and Foster went back and forth, but as he was unable to trip him up otherwise, Smerconish tried something different. “A hypothetical for you. A gay male reporter. This was a gay female. What if a guy that was out similarly requested a ride-along in your truck? … Assume that I’m a gay guy and I’m a journalist and I want to do a ride along with you. I’m out in Mississippi. Are you going to let me in the truck?”

“I would,” replied Foster. “I’m not gay and I’m married to a woman. And generally, people aren’t going to be able to tell if somebody is gay by looking at them. So again, it is perception,” said the gubernatorial candidate.

“And generally there is going to be somebody with us at a lot of the stops so it will be a situation where …”

Interrupting, the reporter said: “Wait a minute. Come on. That is an inconsistency. If you’re worried about perception with a female but I’m a guy who is gay, why are you not similarly worried? Why are you letting me in the truck but not her is my question.”

“Because I’m not gay and people won’t perceive me to be. I’m married to a woman.”

Part two …

Video by CNN


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