The Slatest

Two GOP Gubernatorial Candidates in Mississippi Refuse to Be Alone in a Room With a Woman

A Republican elephant prop at The Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds on July 17, 2014 in Davenport, Iowa.
Beware of the horns.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

There are three Republicans running for governor in the dark-red Deep South state of Mississippi. This week, we learned that two of those candidates to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Phil Bryant refuse to be alone in a room with a woman when former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. went on the record with his adherence to the so-called Billy Graham rule. The late pop preacher’s personal rule, made fashionable again by Vice President Mike Pence, was simple: As a married man, he would never be alone in a room with a woman who wasn’t his wife. Why? I mean, you get it, men + women = temptation = sex + the devil + duh = hell. It all adds up really. Check the figures. It’s a simple equation for good Bible-thumping husbands who can’t keep their hands to themselves.

Waller, of course, wasn’t the first gubernatorial candidate in the state to commit to partying like it’s 1959, swearing off even solo professional relationships with women. State Rep. Robert Foster got there first when he refused to allow a female reporter at Mississippi Today go for a daylong campaign ride-along without bringing along a male colleague. The paper called the arrangement sexist; the Foster campaign used the criticism to raise money while bolstering its conservative bona fides because that’s the 2019 GOP for you. Not to be left out of the time travel, Waller Jr. told Mississippi Today that he too refused to be alone with a woman. “I just think it’s common sense,” Waller said. “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.” Those comments were made after a Republican Women’s Candidate Forum—in 2019.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, the third and final GOP candidate in the primary race—who leads both Foster and Waller in fundraising—declined to say whether he abides by the Billy Graham rule, but there’s still plenty of time before the Aug. 6 primary.