About 2,000 people gathered on Sept. 28 at First Baptist North in Spartanburg, S.C., to hear high-profile Christians speak on defending the faith and applying a Christian worldview to their lives. Among the speakers: Eric Metaxas, Josh McDowell, and—keynote speaker for the evening—best-selling author, filmmaker, and Christian college president Dinesh D’Souza.
D’Souza’s speech earned him a standing ovation and a long line at the book-signing table immediately afterward. Although D’Souza has been married for 20 years to his wife, Dixie, in South Carolina he was with a young woman, Denise Odie Joseph II, and introduced her to at least three people as his fiancée.
Finally, near 11 p.m., event organizer Tony Beam escorted D’Souza and Joseph to the nearby Comfort Suites. Beam noted that they checked in together and were apparently sharing a room for the night in the sold-out hotel. The next morning, around 6 a.m., Beam arrived back at the hotel and called up to D’Souza’s room. “We’ll be down in 10 minutes,” D’Souza told Beam. D’Souza and Joseph came down together, and Beam took them to the airport.
The next day another conference organizer, Alex McFarland, distressed by D’Souza’s behavior, confronted him in a telephone conversation. D’Souza admitted he shared a room with his fiancée but said “nothing happened.” When I called D’Souza, he confirmed that he was indeed engaged to Joseph, but did not explain how he could be engaged to one woman while still married to another. When asked when he had filed for divorce from his wife, Dixie, D’Souza answered, “Recently.”
According to San Diego County (Calif.) Superior Court records, D’Souza filed for divorce only on Oct. 4, the day I spoke with him. Under California law, that starts the clock on a six-month waiting period for divorce. D’Souza on Oct. 4 told me his marriage was “over,” said he “is sure Denise is the one for me,” and said he had “done nothing wrong.”
The episode is a strange twist in D’Souza’s otherwise meteoric rise in the evangelical world. He developed a reputation among evangelicals with a string of best-sellers, including The Roots of Obama’s Rage, which spawned a movie, Obama: 2016, which has now grossed more than $30 million. He broke into the Christian conference and megachurch market in 2007 with the release of a book that year, What’s So Great About Christianity.
D’Souza now receives speaking fees sometimes in excess of $10,000 from Christian groups, putting him in the top tier of Christian speakers. In 2010 he became president of The King’s College, New York City, which is supported by Campus Crusade for Christ, now called Cru. At that time he moved from California to New York, with his wife staying in California.
D’Souza said King’s board chairman Andy Mills has known about his marital trouble for at least two years. Mills confirmed that through a spokesman, Mark DeMoss, who added that Mills was “hopeful about restoration and both he [D’Souza] and Andy were praying to that end.” DeMoss said The King’s College board met by conference call to begin “looking into the situation.” D’Souza participated in a portion of that call, DeMoss said. Following that meeting, on Oct. 15, D’Souza wrote in a text message to me: “I have decided to suspend the engagement.”
The King’s board plans further discussion at a regularly scheduled meeting on Oct. 17 and 18, DeMoss said.