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World magazine is standing by its story that renowned Christian author and "2016: Obama's America" filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza shared a hotel room at an evangelical conference with a woman other than his wife.
Earlier this week, the magazine reported that D'Souza attended and addressed a Christian apologetics conference in South Carolina in late September. He arrived with a woman named Denise Joseph, and D'Souza informed several people that the two were engaged. That raised eyebrows for some at the conference since they were under the impression D'Souza was still married to Dixie, his wife of 20 years. The report also indicated that D'Souza and Joseph shared a hotel room at the conference.
The story reverberated around the evangelical and political worlds. The greatest fallout appears to be D'Souza's decision to resign as president of The King's College in New York City. Now, D'Souza is issuing a six-point rebuttal, challenging certain facts and accusing World editor Marvin Olasky of running the story for other reasons.
World News Group Vice President Warren Smith told WND's Greg Corombos he wasn't sure the events involving D'Souza warranted publication, but ultimately he decided this was a newsworthy item.
"When I discovered that Dinesh was in fact still married to his first wife, Dixie, and was introducing this woman as his fiancée, that ... probably took us over the edge and helped us understand that this was probably a newsworthy story," Smith explained. "It was obvious to us because we cover the evangelical world extensively that this was a highly unusual and irregular situation and, in our judgment, that caused it to rise to the level of being newsworthy."
In his rebuttal, D'Souza said he was unaware that being engaged to someone while still legally married to someone else would be frowned upon at the conference.
"I sought out advice about whether it is legal to be engaged prior to being divorced and I was informed that it is," said D'Souza in his statement. "Denise and I were trying to do the right thing. I had no idea that it is considered wrong in Christian circles to be engaged prior to being divorced, even though in a state of separation and in divorce proceedings."
D'Souza and his wife have been separated for two years, but he did not officially start divorce proceedings until earlier this month. Smith isn't swayed by that argument, saying the vast majority of evangelicals would consider D'Souza's relationship status "unusual" or even "improper."
D'Souza's biggest complaint about the story is the assertion that he and Joseph spent the night in the same hotel room, an assertion World first learned from conference organizer Alex McFarland and later confirmed by Tony Beam, another conference leader.
"We are not and have not been having an affair," said D'Souza in his statement. "(Warren) Smith did not even ask me about this. Instead, Smith apparently deployed conference organizer Alex McFarland to call and raise the issue with me. I clearly told McFarland that Denise and I stayed in separate rooms. I'm not sure whether McFarland is lying or Smith is lying, but one of them made up the quote attributed to me that we stayed in the same room but 'nothing happened.' This is pure libel."
Smith contends the facts speak for themselves.
"Dr. Beam confirmed that he took Dinesh and Denise to the Comfort Suites Hotel in Spartanburg, South Carolina, around 11:00 at night and he picked them up the next morning very, very early to catch a flight," said Smith. "Tony (Beam) admitted that it is totally possible that sometime after 11 and before about 4:30 or 5 in the morning, whenever he picked them up, that one of them could have gone to another hotel and spent the night and come back sometime during the night. You can decide for yourself if that's a plausible explanation."
Smith said D'Souza could produce receipts from the second hotel to back up his claim. He said a second room at the Comfort Suites wasn't possible since the facility was booked solid.
Beyond the debate over the details of the story, D'Souza alleged World magazine was executing a vendetta against him over hostility that has persisted for two years.
"Marvin Olasky, the editor of World, is the former provost of King's College," said D'Souza in his written rebuttal. "Olasky was on the search committee when I interviewed to be president, and he vehemently opposed my candidacy. Olasky publicly admitted that he was resigning his position as a consequence of my appointment. The reporter who wrote this story, Warren Smith, also used to work as a consultant for King's until I decided not to renew his contract."
But Smith contends that past differences did not drive this report.
"This story was not motivated in any way, shape or form by any prior relationships that either I or Marvin Olasky had with The King's College and motivate 100 percent by Dinesh D'Souza's public behavior and our determination that public behavior was newsworthy," Smith said. "That was the primary, and I would even say the only, consideration for us moving forward with this story."