Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, the parents on 19 Kids and Counting, gave an interview to explain the situation involving their oldest son, Josh, and his admitted sexually abuse of five girls, but their explanations of their son’s “bad choices” have managed to dig themselves deeper into the mess. The Duggars have been dealing with (or hiding away) a parental nightmare for years, and are deer in the headlights now that it has blown up in the public eye big time shattering the family’s wholesome, Bible-belt image.
The family’s highly-rated “reality” show on TLC focuses on the ultra-religious Duggar clan, all of whom have names starting with “J’ except Michelle. The children are homeschooled, with limited access to external media influences. On the show, the family frequently talks about their faith, modesty and having chaperones when courting.
Two weeks ago, the news came out about Josh’s teenage behavior (he is now a 27-year-old married father), which included the acknowledged fact he molested some of his sisters and other girls. Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar told Fox News that they handled the situation “the best we could under the circumstances.”
The couple has also made some strange comments dismissing the situation. They explained that Josh was “just curious about girls.” Once is hard enough to explain as curiosity, but five girls? They also explained that “one of our children made some really bad choices.”
Being a parent is not easy, particularly when having to deal with a child who misbehaves or when someone has mistreated their children. The Duggars, who have sold themselves to America as this example of ideal large (very large) family life, seem to have not succeeded in either of those situations, which as is well known now happened simultaneously. Either that, or they really do not grasp that their comments are painting a bad situation in an even worse light.
Michelle acknowledged that, as parents, “We felt, ‘We’re failures.’” Both she and Jim Bob Duggar as parents, however, seem to believe that inappropriately touching girls was part of Josh’s “road to manhood,” and that it could be explained away given his age.
One of the sisters who was a victim, Jessa, has publicly said that her brother’s actions were “very wrong.” She insists, however, that the depictions of him as a pedophile go “overboard.”
However, all of this took place while the family, and its wholesome image, was courting the public eye. Jim Bob Duggar was in the Arkansas House of Representatives until 2002, when he ran for the U.S. Senate. There was a television special on them in September 2004. The police report on Josh and an anonymous call about him was made to an Arkansas child abuse hotline took place in 2006. At the time, the Duggar family could not speak to the police investigating the story, because they were in Chicago to tape an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
That Oprah Winfrey taping never took place. The show’s production people reportedly received an email on Dec. 7, 2006, that talked about the sexual abuse charges, which they turned over to authorities. The show then cancelled the Duggars’ scheduled appearance.
Given the Oprah experience, it is amazing that the story took so long to reach a wider audience. There were also comments about Josh online many years ago as well.
Then, in 2008, the first episode of their television show hit the airwaves. Since then, 10 seasons have aired and the show is TLC’s highest rated. But the network has pulled 19 Kids and Counting as advertisers have bolted and the wholesome Duggars’ image has tarnished.
Living in the public eye cannot be easy, but some family members are now wishing for a more private existence. Making light of the situation and doing interviews has led Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar to dig themselves and their family in deeper with their ‘bad choices’ too. The story will die soon, and presumably their show will end. too.
By Dyanne Weiss
USA Today: Timeline: Duggar sex-abuse allegations
TMZ: Girls Were Victimized More By Media than Josh
People: Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar: As Parents, We Felt ‘We’re Failures’