Beliefs Culture Ethics

Duggars open up to Fox-TV’s Megyn Kelly on family sex scandal

Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly poses for a portrait in Los Angeles, California April 30, 2014.
Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly poses for a portrait in Los Angeles, California April 30, 2014. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
im Bob Duggar (L) and his wife Michelle Duggar (R), supporters of Republican presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, attend a Pro-Life rally in Columbia, South Carolina, on the steps of the State House January 14, 2012.


Jim Bob Duggar, left, and his wife Michelle Duggar, supporters of Republican presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, attend a Pro-Life rally in Columbia, South Carolina, on the steps of the State House on January 14, 2012. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Chris Keane *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-DUGGARS-FOX, originally transmitted on June 4, 2015.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, the Christian conservative reality-TV stars reeling from a family molestation scandal, appeared on television Wednesday night (June 3) for the first time since the shocking revelations that their son confessed he groped underage girls years ago, including his own little sisters.

In their first TV interview since the revelations two weeks ago, the Duggars talked about how son Josh Duggar, now 27, came to them at age 14 and tearfully told them that he had “improperly touched” some of their daughters.

“We were shocked, we were devastated,” Michelle Duggar told Megyn Kelly on Fox News. “As parents we felt, we’re failures. We tried to raise our kids to do what’s right — to know what’s right. And yet one of our children made really bad choices.”

Still, they insisted their son is not and was not a pedophile, because he was too young at the time of his offenses. Josh was never charged with a crime.

For the first time, the couple acknowledged that four of the victims were their daughters, including younger sisters Jill and Jessa, who also spoke to Kelly. A fifth was a family friend.

The daughters are upset that Josh’s secret came out, since it affected them as well. The Duggars insisted that Josh had sought and received forgiveness from all the victims, that all had moved on and put the episode behind them.

“Every victim should have the right to tell their own story, not by a tabloid,” said Jim Bob Duggar.

Kelly said at the conclusion of the hour that the rest of the daughters’ interview will air on another Duggar special on her show on Friday night.

Under Kelly’s questioning, the Duggars defended their actions in delaying reporting Josh to the authorities, saying they were trying to protect their son and their daughters. They eventually took him to police because “we felt it was an important step for Josh to confess to police because he broke the law,” Jim Bob said.

But the police didn’t act at the time, and by the time Josh was reported to state child protection authorities, the statute of limitations for any possible criminal act had expired.

The Duggars said that in 2002 and 2003, when he was 14 and 15, Josh had groped the girls while they slept (the girls slept in the same room), and that he did this more than once even after his first confession to his parents.

They got him out of the house and sent him to a non-professional Christian-based counseling program in Little Rock, Ark. Jim Bob said it was “the best decision” they made, because Josh became “closer to God” as a result. “It was a turning point in his life,” he said.

Josh asked for forgiveness from his victims, some of whom were too young to understand what was wrong or what had happened or why Josh had to leave, said Michelle Duggar.

Kelly pressed them about why they launched a reality show about their family in 2008 given this past.

“When we were asked to do the show, all of this had been taken care of five years before,” Jim Bob said. “We had no fears because everything was resolved and … it was a sealed juvenile record and this stuff under law can’t be brought out.”

The Duggars believe the bigger story is how those records were released (under the Freedom of Information Act), and they threatened to sue, to “protect juvenile records because mistakes juveniles make when they’re young should be sealed,” Jim Bob said.

“We trusted (the authorities) and our children poured out their hearts and then to have their trust betrayed and have everything turned over to a tabloid and twisted?” said Michelle.

Kelly also pressed them on the widespread criticism that they lectured others about sin while covering up their own sins.

“Everybody has things in their past in their families,” Michelle said. “Our son violated God’s principles, and it was terrible what Josh did, it was inexcusable, but it was not unforgivable,” added Jim Bob.

The Duggars believe they are the victims of a witch hunt because of their religion (they’re Baptists) and their politics. “This is more about … there’s an agenda and there’s people that are twisting (the allegations) to hurt and slander,” Michelle said.

Appearing on conservative-friendly news channel, the Duggars told Kelly on her show, The Kelly File, that they still believe they can save their top-rated series about their huge family, 19 Kids and Counting, from the cancellation ax.

But they’re not too worried if it goes away, because they and their family will do just fine moving on with their lives, they said.

The TLC network has pulled the show’s reruns from its schedule but has not decided whether to dump it outright, despite the damage caused by Josh’s dark secret and his parents’ role in hushing it up in Arkansas years ago.

The Duggars’ interview with Kelly was their first public discussion of the scandal that has deeply damaged their show, their children, their pious image and their conservative GOP politics since InTouch magazine published a story May 21 based on police reports obtained under a Freedom of Information request to Arkansas authorities.

Hours later, the Duggars and Josh, now 27, acknowledged the scandal on their Facebook page without going into details, apologized and fervently reconfirmed their faith.

Josh Duggar also hurriedly resigned from the influential GOP ally, the Family Research Council in Washington, where he worked as a lobbyist for Christian causes and against gay marriage and abortion rights.

While TLC ponders what to do about the lucrative and popular show, the Duggars have been the targets of withering social-media criticism as hypocrites for promoting their family’s moral purity while hiding Josh’s self-described “inexcusable” past behavior.

(Maria Puente writes for USA Today.)

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  • Never heard of them until now…..I guess I’m pop-culturally deprived.

    First thought on this — why do a reality show about your family if you’ve got such a problem lurking in the past?

    Second thought on this — why do a reality show about your family, period?

  • The real problem, jack, is that someone with 19 kids is considered to be entertainment in modern America.

    The other real problem is that these Duggars attack gay people as being a danger to children, while shielding a pedophile, incestuous son from any kind of consequences for his actions and not protecting their daughters from said pedophile…

    All the while avoiding the obvious: No one can be a good parent to 19 kids.

  • My guess is that if this had happened in an equally famous Muslim/Sikh/Hindu/athiest family then RNS would not have run it since it is not actually a religious story but just one of those things that could happen in any family.

    But, of course, these are Christians, so all bets are off

  • A third thought: Americans talk a good game about family values, but the blunt truth is that American culture has always been rough on families. We’ve always been a culture where people are willing to move thousands of miles from their family roots to access economic opportunity. Rugged individualism is a key to our economic success as a country, but the flip side is that it frays family ties.

    So the image of this family as a model American family is myth piled upon myth.

    Ironically, while so many people bash immigrants, it’s been precisely immigrant families that have modeled family values. A century ago, the migration of people from Mediterranean cultures — Italians, Greeks, Jews — introduced the nation to genuine family closeness. Ditto today regarding families from places like India.

  • Christian persecution complex rears its head yet again!
    No JohnW, its not just because they are Christians. Its because they are spokespeople for a fairly obscure but very unusual and reactionary sect of Christianity. They put their religious beliefs front and center in all public activities, including their reality show.

    The interview showed many things, none of which were favorable to the Duggars. They would rather make excuses and shift blame to those who exposed the story than examine their own bad behavior. It appears the critics of the Duggars show more concern for their daughters than they do.

  • Usually when people talk a good game about family values, they are doing so to denigrate and attack people whose families do not conform to their own ideas. Its virtually never something mentioned with good intentions. So when such malicious loudmouths fall due to personal scandal, the schadenfreude is more than justified.

  • If that’s what they did, it does sound hypocritical, but the biggest mistake was to do a reality show, period. There are so many things wrong with putting one’s family on display in that way, it’s hard to know where to begin.

    But again, this whole saga is part of America’s talking the talk about family values as a poor substitute for walking the walk. Putting your family on daily parade can’t possibly be pro-family…but people prefer the image to the reality.

  • Rich, you’ve got to be kidding…..Those who leaked that information on them are lower than pond scum. They’ve likely ruined the lives of many of those children.

    That said, I think the parents never should have done a reality show in the first place. Even if there were no skeletons, you don’t parade your family in front of a camera like that. It’s brainless and thoughtless.

  • Larry, that depends on the person. I think the talk about family values predates the culture wars….Such talk is as I said — simply a poor substitute for the real deal. Our culture prefers image to reality….Norman Rockwell paintings to Norman Rockwell living. We like etiquette more than ethics, and manners more than morals.

    As for shadenfreude, there are too many potential victims in this instance to indulge in it.

  • Jack, pedophiles tend to be pedophiles– forever.

    And hypocrites tend to be hypocrites forever, until finally, hopefully, either they are exposed for it and eventually relegated to obscurity, or finally find integrity in their lives.

    Put these two together, and this is what I would say:

    Maybe Josh Duggars just made a youthful mistake. Maybe. And maybe his parents made a mistake by basically covering it up for him. Maybe. But how are you going to feel about it if, in a couple of years, we find that Josh Duggars not only molested his own sisters, but is molesting his own children?

  • There was always an element of condescension and attack in such talk. Family values is usually brought up as some kind of bulwark against creeping modernity. “Culture wars” are as old as culture itself. For example when Ancient Greeks talked of “Golden age” they were extolling the past and denigrating their current “Iron age”. It hasn’t changed much since then.

    There is always an element of a given society which looks to its past with rose colored glasses to bemoan the present. Usually when a dominant group loses some of its hold on the culture or political power. Talk of “family values” is meant to appeal to such myths.

  • The Duggars are a godly family, and we know that God forgives the godly. Jesus didn’t die for NOTHING, he died for OUR SINS. That includes the Duggars sins, if they accept Him as their saviour, and all evidence says they have.

    Therefore there is NO reason to be dredging all this up accept for athiests to heap degradation upon a strong family of Christian conservative activists who are spreading the twin values of Family and Christ.

    Now, if he had molested his brothers it would obviously be a different story. But we cannot continue to punish him for being overeager in exploring his God-given heterosexual nature and the complementarianism between male and female. He has repented and now is the time for forgiveness and healing.

  • This behavior is indefensible. Regardless of one’s religious belief, I hope we all recognize the many problems here. First of all, they kept this secret from the start – showing the girls that the family facade was more important than they were. If the girls had any doubt that they were considered second class to the men, they were reminded of their second class status by the fact that the Duggars still kept it secret after they allowed it to continue after they knew about it. Next, they failed Josh and society by relying on quack treatment, instead of going to a licensed counselor (showing how the denial of reality pervades this case, common among closed religious communities, many of which are Chirstian). Perhaps worse of all, the focus after this story of sexual abuse broke has been on Josh, his faith, and the Duggars show, instead of on the victims. This case shows all too well how dangerous and harmful such a religiously closed and inwardly focused family is.

  • Good point about pedophiles, Ben. I would have to know what exactly is fact and what isn’t to know for sure in the son’s case, but the patterns look rather ominous. But still, releasing this to the public when supposedly it was sealed was a heinous thing to do, in terms of potential effects on the other children.

    But the bottom line is that, especially given that past, the parents should never have created a reality show about their family.

  • Not sure if I agree. You’re right in some instances, but I don’t think that talk of “family values” has universally emerged within the context of cultural wars.

  • No, I think you’re allowing your anti-religious slip to show here. The bottom line is that this family never should have even contemplated a reality show.

  • Nobody can be a good parent when their married partner is the same gender.

    “Mommies, where’s my father?”

    Shut up you homophobe!

  • You mean the Indian immigrants that moved thousands of miles away for economic opportunities at the expense of family ties?

  • Telling yourself to shut up sounds like a good plan. Especially since your hypothetical babies would be living in foster care, with parents unfit for physical custody, orphanages or simply never exist if not for their gay parents.

    But its not like your POV is about making sense or rational arguments. You just picked one of the most boneheaded ones bandied about.