The Duggars, the reality TV family famous for its progeny ("19 Kids and Counting") and its conservatism, is reeling now that oldest son, Josh, has been forced to acknowledge he was investigated for molesting underage girls when he was a teenager in Arkansas.
His acknowledgment came after InTouch magazine published a story Thursday (May 21) about police records it obtained from Springdale, Ark., hidden since 2006, that show Josh Duggar confessed to his father, Jim Bob Duggar, who then waited more than a year before contacting police about what his then 15-year-old son admitted doing to five girls.
Josh Duggar apologized Thursday and abruptly resigned his job at the Family Research Council in Washington, one of the leading conservative groups fighting abortion and gay marriage, among other causes.
For most of Thursday, his Twitter account was silent but by evening he had tweeted a link to the family's statement.
"Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends," Josh Duggar, 27, said in the statement posted on the family's Facebook page.
"We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling," the statement said. "I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life."
Josh's parents, Jim Bob, 49, and Michelle, 48, also issued a joint statement, saying they hope that people who watch them on TV realize that "we are not a perfect family."
"When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes, and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before."
Tony Perkins, president of the FRC, posted a statement on its website, saying Josh's actions as a teen were "previously unknown" to the organization, a close ally of conservative Republicans in Washington.
"Josh believes that the situation will make it difficult for him to be effective in his current work," Perkins said. "We believe this is the best decision for Josh and his family at this time. We will be praying for everyone involved."
So far, there's been no official statement about Thursday's shocking developments from TLC, where the Duggar family have been reality stars, other than a tweet linking to People magazine's story.
Meanwhile, shocked tweets piled up on Twitter, plus plenty of pictures of Josh Duggar posing with GOP heavyweights (including presidential hopefuls U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker).
Some tweets called out the Duggars and the Family Research Council for moral hypocrisy.
The InTouch story, which included pictures of the police documents it was based on, reported that Josh Duggar was investigated for multiple sex offenses, including forcible fondling of breasts and genitals, against five underage girls. Some of the alleged offenses investigated were felonies.
In his statement, Josh Duggar said he confessed to his parents and they "took several steps" to address the situation. He also apologized to the victims.
"We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life."
Josh Duggar was never charged with a crime, and the statute of limitations has now expired.
InTouch reported that his father took Josh to an Arkansas state trooper who was a personal friend, who took no action other than a "very stern talk." That officer is now serving a 56-year term in prison for child pornography, the magazine reported, and no case was ever brought against Josh Duggar.
Josh's wife, Anna, 26, said in the family statement that she knew about her husband's "past teenage mistakes" two years before he proposed. She supported him nonetheless and is confident that the counseling he's received has "changed his life."
"I can imagine the shock many of you are going through reading this," she said. "I remember feeling that same shock."
She said Josh wanted her and her parents to "know who he really was – even every difficult past mistakes."
(Maria Puente writes for USA Today.)
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