Mike Huckabee (left) and Josh Duggar

23 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Can ’19 Kids’ survive Josh Duggar scandal?.

Mike Huckabee has come out in support of the Duggar family after Josh Duggar addressed allegations he sexually molested underage girls, including his sisters, when he was 14-years-old. “Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable.’ He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities,” said Huckabee in a Facebook statement. “No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story. Josh Duggar, the eldest son in the family chronicled in TLC’s series 19 Kids and Counting, has spoken out after it emerged he had been accused of child molestation in the past. “Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things.” “The reason that the law protects disclosure of many actions on the part of a minor is that the society has traditionally understood something that today’s blood-thirsty media does not understand — that being a minor means that one’s judgement is not mature,” continued Huckabee. I hurt others, including my family and close friends,” Duggar, who was accused as a teenager of molesting five underage girls, told PEOPLE in a statement. “I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation.” Duggar, 27, who has since resigned from his role at the Family Research Council, said his parents took him to the authorities and later arranged for him and his victims to receive counseling.

His confession came after an expose reported by InTouch, which unearthed police records that not only documented the molestation but showed that patriarch Jim Bob Duggar waited more than a year before contacting police. The police report is heavily redacted and does not include the name of the person accused of “forcible fondling,” but the dates listed in the document appear to line up with Duggar’s statement Thursday.

The channel is staying mum, at least for now, about the molestation allegations. (The alleged assaults occurred 12 years ago, well before television cameras started following the family.) But many observers are asking what TLC knew and when. Could the show’s producers — particularly at the production company Figure 8 Films — have been completely unaware of the family secret? “This is the recurring problem with reality TV: The very source of its appeal — this isn’t fiction, it’s real life, true and unscripted! — is what makes it more vulnerable when confronted with scandal,” Yahoo TV critic Ken Tucker wrote Friday. It hasn’t announced any decision on the show’s future. (As I write, it’s replaced a daytime rerun of the show with The Little Couple.) Josh may be paying some price.

The family campaigned for Huckabee in his 2008 presidential bid, and the politician has already won the Duggars’ endorsement for his 2016 race for the White House. There’s no evidence to suggest any of the candidates who campaigned with the Duggars over the years had any knowledge of the report published this week. Back in January, Huckabee questioned the Obamas’ style of parenting while praising the Duggars, telling PEOPLE: “I’ve pointed them out as an example of something that’s wholesome and wonderful.” TLC, Discovery and every other media corporation are not legal authorities, and I don’t especially want media executives responsible for meting out justice.

In the 33-page document, the names of Duggar’s victims were redacted, but it became clear that at least some of them also had parents named Jim Bob and Michelle and lived in the same home, meaning that some of Josh’s sisters must have been among the five victims. Within hours of the news breaking, critics of the Duggars had unearthed shots of him with a veritable panoply of declared and expected GOP presidential candidates, enough to fill a single-service Tumblr page.

That may not be TLC’s fault—the incidents predate the show’s premiere—but it is TLC’s problem. 19 Kids is not just about the wacky logistics of running a really, really big family. In a typical example of its hardline views, the FRC has a page on its website arguing that gay people should not be allowed to work with children, claiming that “disproportionate numbers of gay men seek adolescent males or boys as sexual partners”. It’s social advocacy, about the Duggars setting themselves up as a moral and religious example, espousing conservative Christian values and withdrawal from the wickedness of larger society—homeschooling, limiting media intake—as a means of raising Godly children. I’m about to spend Memorial Day weekend at a wedding in the Bible Belt, where gay kids are told by their churches, state legislatures and sometimes even parents that they are not entitled to the same rights as everyone else. The Duggars also appeared in a photograph with former President Bill Clinton, who is also from Arkansas, when both the family and the former president were interviewed on NBC’s Today show in 2011.

Yes, there are people who sincerely believe homosexuality is wrong, and who even think they’re helping gay people by trying to make them “overcome those attractions,” as Duggar’s group aspires to do. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.” Commentators have noted the emphasis on his life, and a lack of admission that the lives ruined would have been those of the young women he assaulted. And the Duggar family’s political activity doesn’t stop there — last cycle Josh Duggar alone campaigned for GOP Senate candidates in Kansas, Virginia and Mississippi. In 2008, they helped drive Huckabee to a win in the Iowa caucuses, where Evangelical Christians are a strong voting force; in 2012 they did the same for Santorum. And it will be tempting for TLC to leave it at that and leave a valuable franchise on the air. (That wasn’t enough to save Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, the onetime phenomenon TLC canceled after reports that matriarch Mama June was dating a convicted child molester.) It has no excuse to.

A formal police investigation wasn’t opened until 2006, when the Duggars were due to make an appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s show and a tipster sent along a letter detailing some of the allegations, which the show forwarded to police. The family is known for their support of Bill Gothard, a hyper-conservative Christian who has advocated for homeschooling, modest dressing and living debt-free. Many of his followers, including the Duggars, belong to the Quiverfull movement, which is based on a Bible verse about God filling “quivers” with “arrows”, interpreted to mean “wombs” and “foetuses”. Each Duggar child who got married – in addition to Josh, Jill and Jessa Duggar both had televised weddings in which they spoke of their “purity”, or virginity – said they would trust God with the size of their family. But the story has spread well beyond the religious community and reality TV fans into the mainstream — even the Duggars’ beloved Fox News has covered the allegations.

TLC, which was running a marathon of 19 Kids & Counting all day on Thursday despite – or because of – the breaking news, will soon have to make a decision about what to do with the series.

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