It seems that the disgraced Duggar family, formerly of the TLC reality television show “19 Kids and Counting”, are at it again. This time however, we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief – apparently nobody has broken the law, endangered a minor, or committed another act of sexual deviance or hypocrisy that would make Mother Theresa want to stand up and slap someone across the face.
No, this time, the reality-tv fame-hungry Duggars are dealing in something that ironically, is in plentiful supply these days; bad advice. There isn’t a pop culture follower alive who probably isn’t familiar with the way the original Duggar fiasco played out, causing TLC to ultimately cancel their popular television show in the wake of the scandal. However, just in case you’ve blocked the whole thing from your mind and need a refresher (and who would blame you if you did?), here’s what went down.
As far back as 2002, long before the Duggars were a part of the TLC reality circus act, the Duggar’s oldest son Josh was rumored to have been sexually abusing young girls, a claim which sickeningly even named a few of his own sisters as victims. Apparently the assaults happened while the victims were staying at the Duggar’s home in Arkansas. While the family managed somehow to keep these allegations under wraps, the family patriarch, Jim Bob (and yes, that us actually his real name) reportedly had already had discussions with the police, admitting that Josh had touched young girls inappropriately on “four or five” occasions at the family home.
Ironically, during this time, Jim Bob Duggar was also in contention for the Republican Senate seat for the state of Arkansas. His platform? That “rape and incest represent heinous crimes and as such should be treated as capital crimes.” Jim Bob Duggar lost his bid for a senate seat, and after the events that would follow, it would seem that he lost his grip on his stance on sexual abuse as well. In 2003, about nine months after the first “several” incidents, the elder Duggars were made aware of “at least two” more incidents, which they then took to the police. Well, sort of. When we say “took it to the police”, what we mean here is that they had a discussion with a police officer who is a family friend, and it was mutually decided that Josh should seek “treatment”. No criminal charges filed at that time, nor is there any evidence in any police reports of any discussion of charges being leveled against Josh. Instead, the Duggars decided to take their problems to their church elders, who agreed Josh needed treatment and gave Josh a “very stern talk”, after which the investigating police officer told Jim Bob Duggar that there was “nothing else to do”.
According to a later police report, Josh Duggar allegedly went through a “treatment” program of manual labor and Christian counselling for a period of about four months, although the police report is a bit sketchy as to whether or not Josh Duggar actually saw a certified counselor who specializes in crimes of a sexual nature. Conveniently, Jim Bob Duggar was unable to recall the name of the facility from which he sourced Josh’s “treatment”.
In 2004, The Discovery Channel came calling. Apparently TLC felt that the Duggar family’s unique brand of traditional religious values mixed with some seriously tireless reproduction was a ratings jackpot, and they were tagged to appear in a Discovery Health special called “14 Kids and Pregnant Again”. The network was correct in their prediction of the Duggars appealing to a certain segment of the population, and thus began the Duggars as reality television personalities era.
However, while the Duggars were happily enjoying the limelight from their first foray into television (and garnering the ever-lucrative endorsement deals that follow), there was a storm brewing behind the scenes.
While the Duggars were more than happy to cash-in on their traditional Christian values any time the cameras were rolling, anonymous tips were flooding in that there was still sexual abuse going on in the Duggar household, including one that was mailed to the Oprah Winfrey show after the Duggars had been scheduled to appear (Oprah swiftly cancelled the appearance). Child protective services got involved, and The Springdale Children’s Safety Center in Arkansas played host to a series of police interviews of everyone in the Duggar’s circle. Despite the ongoing allegations, TLC came calling in 2008, and the show “17 Kids and Counting” (there weren’t yet 19 kids) was born (pun intended). The wheels really only began to really and truly come off for the Duggars when In Touch Magazine blew the (holy) lid off their world when they broke the story to a national audience in May of this year.
As one would expect, the Duggars responded with scripture-laced apologies, sermons of forgiveness, and more than a bit of denial. They claimed that the police reports that In Touch obtained (via the freedom of information act) should have been sealed because of Josh’s young age (he was a teenager). They threatened to sue (they had no case). And when TLC finally pulled their show from the airwaves in the wake of the ongoing scandal, they believed that their show could continue, because “mistakes” that people make as a “juvenile” should “remain sealed”.
As it turns out, what had been going on behind closed doors at the Duggar compound was a lot more than just a few “juvenile mistakes”. Accidentally dyeing your hair blackish green is a juvenile mistake (been there, done that). Getting caught “doing donuts” in your dad’s Chevy Impala in the vacant grocery store parking lot is a “juvenile mistake”. Josh Duggar is a sexual predator who among his multiple other victims, molested at least for of his own sisters. And all the while espousing family values and abstinence (and a host of other things that work about as well as a chocolate teapot) while working as a lobbyist for the ultra-conservative Family Research Council. But as it turned out, the reach of his dysfunction and hypocrisy didn’t just end with TLC’s 19th kid.
When the Ashley Madison scandal broke, Josh Duggar was in the headlines yet again, as one of their more… erm… active members. That led to the discovery of Josh’s multiple Facebook accounts that he was using to meet women with whom he would often have extramarital sexual encounters. More than a few prostitutes came out of the woodwork to share their Josh Duggar stories, and the few remaining sponsors that were still holding on to the hope that the Duggars could repair their tarnished image disappeared into the ether.
While this may all be old news to you, this week, it became painfully apparent that the Duggars will do just about anything to try to keep the reality dream alive, and they don’t seem to care who they (holy) roll over in the process – even if those who end up hurting are their own daughters! One month ago, matriarch Michelle Duggar tested the waters by poking her head out of whatever hole they are hiding in and published a short essay with some “advice” she gives to her daughters when they get married. Sadly, “change your name and run as fast as you can away from this family” did not appear anywhere in her “advice”, but instead she gave us a few rare and wonderful sound bytes like “being sexually available to your husband at all times” and “stroking their delicate egos always”. It was a shocking display of tone-deafness, and to many it was interpreted as a dig at Josh Duggar’s estranged wife, Anna. Is Michelle Duggar really implying that if only Anna had been a little more attentive sexually, Josh wouldn’t have needed to use prostitutes, sleep around, molest young children, and lie about all of it while preaching the gospel to a room full of family values advocates!? Is she for real!? These poor people still seem to think that even ignoring sex crimes happening under your own roof, by your own children won’t keep them from being the face of the conservative Christian movement.
But it doesn’t end there. Patriarch Jim Bob also poked his head out of the foxhole earlier this week with a little advice of his own. Apparently, you can still be a “great spiritual leader and coach of your home” if you simply ask for forgiveness for the things you have done wrong. I guess to Jim Bob, it’s really that easy. He goes on to state that you can protect your family by “removing books, magazines, television, and other sources of worldly or sensual content”. So I guess that’s how it happened… that’s how all of this got so out of hand.
An errant “worldly” book or magazine much have slipped past Duggar security and warped poor Josh’s feeble young mind. Yeah, that’s it.
Look, we’re all for forgiveness and everything however, if you look back at your life and see that a virtual stringer of sex crime victims are following you, I might suggest that a really good place to start is to ask for their forgiveness. You should have plenty of time to do that while you are serving your time behind bars for endangering vulnerable young people.