July 11, 2019 10:41:26 AM
Slim Smith - [email protected]
Have yourself a day, Robert Foster.
Before Wednesday, Robert Foster was pretty much off the radar, a one-term state representative polling in single digits in the GOP Governor primary.
The only real question would be whether he could draw enough Tea Party and DeSoto County extremist support to force a run-off between the other two candidates, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Bill Waller, Jr., the former chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court.
That's not the sort of position that typically generates much media interest.
Yet by the end of the day Wednesday, Foster's name was suddenly all over the place - the New York Times, Washington Post, CBS News, CNN and dozens of online news outlets, including Mississippi Today, whose story sparked the coverage that would follow.
The blueprint is pretty familiar these days: Do something stupid, then cast yourself as being "attacked" when you are called out for it.
Here's how it went in Foster's case.
Larrison Campbell, a female reporter for Mississippi Today, requested that she be allowed to shadow foster during a 15-hour campaign tour through South Mississippi. Usually candidates welcome reporters and the stories they generate. Foster's campaign director told Campbell she could only make the trip if she brought with her a male colleague, essentially a chaperone. He explained the optics of the candidate being seen with a woman could be used in a smear campaign to insinuate an extramarital affair.
Campbell declined, then wrote a column about Foster's decision to deny a reporter equal access solely on the grounds of her gender.
And that's where the fun began.
As news outlets picked up on the story, Foster, no doubt grinning like a Cheshire cat, took to Twitter, taking care to link to each new story for optimum exposure and adding his own comments. His tweets became more and more hysterical.
First he said he denied Campbell access because he and his wife had agreed to abide by "The Billy Graham Rule," which stipulates that he would not put himself to be alone with a woman other than his wife.
As the criticism continued to roll in, his narrative began to envelope all the paranoid victimhood that accompanies people who have no other argument to stand on.
Suddenly, he re-branded his overt misogyny as an attack by the radical left, an assault on his character and values. By the end of the day, the attack was not directed on himself alone, but on every good, decent, god-fearing Mississippian whose only hope for survival from the relentless attack of "Communists, Socialists and the radical left" was to elect Robert Foster as Governor.
Being a well-known Communist Socialist who wants to destroy America and lays awake at night thinking up ways to make sure a third-tier candidate doesn't spoil my pernicious plans, I have a few thoughts of my own.
First, Foster is nuts.
This is 2019. I double-checked that. Women are no strangers in the workplace and they deserve to be treated with respect and fairness. When you make rules that apply only to women, that's a pretty sure sign you've crossed the threshold. That's true every single time.
As far as this whole business about how allowing a woman to join you and your staff on a campaign tour might compromise your marriage, it makes me wonder just sort of relationship you've got going on there.
There are trust issues somewhere. Maybe Foster doesn't trust the reporter not to throw herself at him (you know how perpetually lustful women are). Maybe he doesn't trust himself to be alone with a woman (boys will be boys). Or maybe Foster's wife trusts him about as far as she can throw him (I'd bet on this one).
More charitably, it could also be that Foster is just a sexist knuckle-dragger.
By the way, does anyone recall a female public figure ever invoking the "Billy Graham Rule?" The very idea seems silly.
But today, Foster's name is out there. You can't buy this kind of publicity, after all, and it will resonate with those who can't look at a woman with seeing a hussy using her feminine wiles to bring a good man down. That's a pretty sick way to view more than half the population.
But there it is.
Foster said the criticism is an attack on his integrity, professionalism and Christian values.
I've not seen a sufficient sample size of those qualities to offer an opinion on that.
But I do know misogyny when I see it.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]