State House

South Carolina Social Conservative Crisis: An Update

Palmetto Family board in turmoil …

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Two weeks ago, this news outlet reported on an abrupt and unexpected leadership change at South Carolina’s most prominent social conservative advocacy group – Palmetto Family. The resignation of veteran political operative Dave Wilson from his post as president of this organization prompted rampant speculation within the Palmetto political universe.

Wilson’s resignation was announced on March 9, 2023 via a terse statement from Palmetto Family board chairman Tony Beam, who did not specify why Wilson chose to step down. Beam’s statement also made no reference to Wilson’s prior service at the organization – and declined to offer him well wishes in his future endeavors.

Even more confusing? Wilson stepped down just nine days before Palmetto Family’s much-anticipated Vision ’24 forum in Charleston, S.C. – a gathering of social conservatives from across the state intended to cement the organization’s status as a major player in the upcoming “First in the South” GOP presidential primary.

As news began to spread about Wilson’s departure, he issued a statement on March 13 indicating he was “returning to the business world to pursue some exciting new opportunities” – citing his return to full-time status as principal strategist in the shop of longtime Columbia, S.C. political communications executive Bob McAlister.

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With that, the story – to the extent it was one – appeared to be over. Headed for the ether. Rapidly relegated to the back-burner of bourbon-soaked confabs in capital city backrooms. But then Wilson’s presence in a position of authority at the Vision ’24 conference in Charleston revived it – and in the process exposed a major rift within the Palmetto Family board.

“Are these sins in keeping with our family’s values?” a source close to the board’s deliberations told me. “Forgiveness flows from our Lord and savior – we are called by Him to forgive – but do we countenance such indiscretions from our leaders? Do we permit them to represent us in front of the entire nation?”

Wait … sins? Indiscretions?

What in the world is going on here?

Clearly, the story of Wilson’s departure from Palmetto Family is not entirely confined to his pursuit of “exciting new opportunities” in the private sector.

(Click to View)

Dave Wilson with South Carolina governor Henry McMaster (Palmetto Family)

So … what happened? According to multiple sources familiar with the situation, Palmetto Family board members were provided weeks ago with a detailed packet of information from several members of Wilson’s family – specifically, two of his adult children. This packet provided, among other things, evidence of the existence of a relationship between Wilson and a national conservative operative.

The packet included text messages, photographs and other materials – along with letters from Wilson’s family members discussing the materials contained therein. This news outlet has received, reviewed and independently verified much of the information contained in the packet.

The national operative – Catherine Foster – was president and chief executive officer of a Washington, D.C.-based pro-life advocacy group. I say “was” because Foster resigned her position with this organization on March 10, 2023 – less than 24 hours after Wilson’s resignation from Palmetto Family was announced.

Foster, 41, of Atlanta, Georgia, left her position for “personal reasons,” according to a statement from the group.

While the timing of the two statements strongly suggested the two resignations were linked, this news outlet has been able to confirm Foster’s departure from her previous organization was actually tied to another issue – one pre-dating her association with Wilson.

(Click to View)

Catherine Foster (Provided)

“I have spent the last fifteen years defending life and advancing fundamental human rights and will continue to do so,” Foster told this news outlet. “These are the issues that really matter.”

Foster and her ex-husband divorced several years ago. Wilson and his wife began an in-house separation in November 2021, sources familiar with the situation said. They became formally separated on March 4, 2023.

As for Foster and Wilson, they met approximately six weeks ago in a professional capacity and were later connected via text by a mutual friend, sources familiar with their relationship told this news outlet.

“Every family goes through tough times,” Wilson told this news outlet. “Sometimes they work out. Sometimes they don’t. I love my family. Always have. Always will. Come what may.”

Is Wilson’s love of his family reciprocated, though?

His eldest daughter, 24-year-old Carly Grosse of Columbia, S.C., declined for the moment to provide comment on the scandal surrounding her father – but indicated she and at least one more of her siblings might break their silence soon.

“I know we definitely want to speak to the situation from our perspectives, and we feel strongly that this issue is not something that should be kept hidden from others by our father and Palmetto Family,” Grosse told me. “We will certainly comment when the time is right.”

As for Palmetto Family, its board remains in turmoil – with some members defending the decision to keep Wilson at the helm during the Vision ’24 conference and others indignant over his association with the organization and its national gala.

Based in Columbia, S.C. Palmetto Family’s stated objective is to “persuasively present biblical principles in the centers of influence on issues affecting the family through research, communication, and networking.” The group has played a key role in the ongoing debate at the S.C. State House over abortion. Its vice president, Mitch Prosser, is continuing to lead the organization in an interim capacity as a national search for a replacement gets underway.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Will Folks on phone
Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.

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5 comments

Mark March 26, 2023 at 5:04 pm

Another “Family Values” “Christian” conservative is having an affair. What a cliche at has become. These so-called conservative Christians have such a tough time maintaining their image and are losing young Americans, is they are trying to portray themselves as Christian, but Christ would not recognize them as a follower of his and they really do not like most of the things Christ taught. It is truly sad, but most American Churches are truly lost in the wilderness. They see a world they don’t like, and rather than try to change that world in the way Christ instructed; through love, forgiveness, welcoming strangers, ministering to the sick, giving shelter and clothing to the poor and generally doing good works in the name of Christ; they go with hate, anger, exclusion, public chiding, and vilifying those who fail to live up to the standards they themselves cannot meet.

I have never met anyone who calls himself or herself a conservative Christian who was not a total hypocrite. Especially those who demagogue abortion; and none of those are worse than Anti-abortion politicians. They say the act to save the lives of children but 99% of them would not spend a penny to save the life of a child. They sit back and watch tens of thousands of children die every year from starvation and disease, and hardly lift a finger to stop it. They never even mention it. Why? Because solving those problems would cost them money. They might have to live a lesser lifestyle or drive a less expensive car. and they will not do that to save the life of some street urchin in some third-world country. But forcing a woman to have a child. That cost them nothing, so go for it.

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Tom Jones March 27, 2023 at 4:00 am

Well, well, another “family values Christian” who can’t keep his zipper closed. After their unwavering support of a lying, narcissistic nutbag; they are in no position to tell anyone how to live their lives.

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Seth Wilkins Top fan March 27, 2023 at 12:14 pm

I want to be, but I am not surprised by this. Palmetto Family has had its issues over the years, and they seem to keep occurring. Wilson is yet another example of the frauds this organization employs. I saw Wilson in Walmart on Christmas Eve and he was acting super erratic and walking all around the store very fast. He was very curt and rude to anyone who said anything to him. I guess we all know what was going on behind the scenes now. So much for family values and wholesome living. Palmetto Family should be ashamed. He should have stepped down as soon as he and his wife had marital issues. What a sham organization.

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MTB March 27, 2023 at 3:48 pm

You’re basing your perception of a man on what you observe as his erratic behavior and fast walking in Walmart on Christmas Eve?? If you’re walking in Walmart on Christmas Eve at a leisurely pace and unaffected by people coming up to you, perhaps you are the one who should be questioned as to fitness for values and wholesome living. I’m calling BS on your comment entirely.

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MB April 5, 2023 at 11:23 pm

Watching the excellent interview with his oldest daughters. What mature daughters he has and seeking to be Christlike; thinking of others more than themselves.

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