A second gubernatorial candidate in Mississippi has stated he will not be alone with a woman who is not his wife, arguing that “appearances are important.”
Former state Supreme Court chief justice Bill Waller Jr. told Mississippi Today, “I just think it’s common sense.”
“I just think in this day and time, appearances are important and transparency’s important, and people need to have the comfort of what’s going on in government between employees and people,” Waller told the publication Monday.
Waller is one of three Republicans running in the Aug. 6 primary to succeed term-limited Gov. Phil Bryant (R). Eight Democrats are also running.
Last week, one of the other Republican candidates, state Rep. Robert Foster, made national headlines when he told Mississippi Today reporter Larrison Campbell that he would only agree to a 15-hour ride-along if she brought a male colleague with her. Foster cited the “optics” of being alone with Campbell and said he follows the “Billy Graham rule,” which Vice President Pence has also embraced.
Campbell and her editor objected to Foster’s request, which they described as sexist. In a CNN interview last week, Foster reiterated his opposition to being alone with a woman, declaring, “This is my truck, and in my truck we go by my rules.” His campaign later sent out a fundraising email to supporters based on the episode, and in a second interview with CNN, he pointed to the rise of the #MeToo movement as one of the reasons behind his decision.
“Now, in the #MeToo movement era, people could come back at me five, 10, 15 years later and accuse me of assaulting them, and I have no witness there to protect me from that accusation,” Foster said. “And so, I have to protect myself in both my professional and personal career.”
The third Republican candidate, Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, on Tuesday declined to say whether he had a similar rule.
“We’re not going to engage with a statement on the whole Billy Graham thing,” Reeves campaign spokesman Parker Briden told the Associated Press.
Waller’s campaign had previously said it was “standard practice to always have a member of the staff present when speaking to the press.” His acknowledgment that he follows the “Billy Graham rule” came after Mississippi Today pressed him to clarify those remarks.
Deanna Paul contributed to this report.