How Long Did TLC Ignore Josh Duggar’s Child Molester Status?

Above: The Josh Duggar sexual abuse scandal, explained
Above: The Josh Duggar sexual abuse scandal, explained

For the last week, everyone has been talking about the Duggar family and the revelation than eldest son (of 19), Josh, molested several young girls, including a few of his sisters, when he was a teenager. After InTouch magazine uncovered the truth, Josh released a statement, confirming its accuracy. “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,” he said. Since then, more and more information has come to light revealing how many people actually knew about what was going on. But the real question is, how long did TLC know their prized TV family wasn’t as pure as they made themselves out to be?

The Duggars are well known for their extreme stances on birth control, dating, and marriage, and they’ve never been afraid to share their beliefs. Their show 19 Kids and Counting has been on the air for 10 seasons, and they starred in a number of specials for Discovery Health before that. So that means, camera crews have been following their daily lives for years. Is it really possible TLC had no idea what Josh had done?

TLC has pulled reruns of the show from their lineup, but they still haven’t announced whether they will be cancelling future seasons or not. If you remember, the network cancelled Here Comes Honey Boo Boo last year because matriarch, Mama June was associating with a convicted child molester. So, chances are the Duggars will be given the same treatment. But is that just because the scandal has gone public? How long was TLC aware of these allegations before the press got ahold of it? And why did they choose to look the other way?

2002-2003 – Jim Bob Duggar and Arkansas police trooper, Cpl. Hutchins

According the the police report released by InTouch, in March 2002, one of Josh’s victims came forward to tell Jim Bob Duggar that Josh had touched her inappropriately while she was sleeping. Josh even admitted what he had done to his father, but it wasn’t until a year later when more victims came forward (some of them his own sisters), that Jim Bob decided to go to the police. At the church elders suggestion, they sent Josh away to a Christian counselling program, and when he returned in July 2003, Jim Bob took him to the police station.

Cpl. Hutchins, the trooper they spoke to apparently gave Josh a “stern talking to”, but never charged him with anything. InTouch also uncovered that Hutchins was later arrested on child pornography charges of his own, and his currently serving a 56 year prison sentence.

2005-2006 – Discovery Health and canceled special with Oprah

In 2005, the Duggar’s first special, 14 Kids and Pregnant Again! aired on Discovery Health. Then in 2006, Oprah canceled the family’s appearance on her show after someone emailed the studio with information about Josh’s crimes. Oprah’s people passed the information along to the police, who attempted an investigation. Three more Duggar specials aired during that investigation, and ultimately the three year statute of limitations ran out and Josh was never charged.

According to InTouch, the Duggars were interviewed by the police, but they refused to allow Josh to be questioned. At that point, both Josh’s parents knew about what he did, and by protecting him so fiercely they were telling his young victims (some of them their very own daughters) that what happened to them didn’t matter.

2007 – Duggar message boards

By this time, the Duggars had starred in numerous specials and were a prominent family in their area of Arkansas and in the Christian community. Message boards to discuss the family, their show, and their beliefs were popping up everywhere including one called FreeJinger.org. An anonymous poster named “Alice” was the first one to accuse Josh of molesting his sisters, claiming Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, “have lied and lied about their son to protect him at their daughters expense. For some unknown reason the boy is still in the home with the girls. God only know if this is still going on.”

Another message board poster brought to light the fact that many of the church elders also knew the situation, and were on board with keeping it a secret. They also added that the clothing the girls wear is partially to blame for boys acting inappropriately. The Duggars are all about modesty, and clearly they subscribe to the belief that girls bear some of the responsibility for their own assaults.

2008 – 19 Kids and Counting goes on the air and Anna Duggar

Then 17 Kids and Counting, the Duggar’s show was popular from the beginning. It followed the day to day lives of a family that big, including the dating lives of the older children, Josh’s marriage, the the births of his three kids with wife, Anna.

Since Josh made his statement admitting what he did, his wife Anna has stood by him and revealed that she has known about “his past mistakes” for years. She posted a cryptic Instagram shot a few days before the scandal broke with the quote, “The three most beautiful and liberating words in the English language are these: I forgive you.” Josh and Anna’s courtship was captured on film for the show, so there’s no way TLC producers weren’t aware of what had happened at this point.

2015 – The truth comes out

On May 21st, Josh Duggar wrote a statement admitting to what he had done. His parents also released statements, saying, “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.”

Recently, the Duggars have been public about their views on things like transgendered people’s right to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as, and the claim that it’s discrimination to not allow Christians to discriminate against gay people. They have always been conservative, and there are lots of stories out there about how they know very little about the real world, and believe God makes everything happen for a reason.

To them, Josh made some “mistakes” when he was a teenager. Like some teens might drink too much at a party, or have a fight with a friend, Josh’s choice to molest his own sisters is considered a mistake, not a real crime. They were not interested in justice for their daughters, only in protecting Josh from the consequences and realities of his own actions.

Plenty of people knew about Josh’s crimes, including the police, but keeping the Duggar’s on the air was more important than anything else. In the last week, we’ve heard from everyone but the actual victims— the Duggar girls. The sad thing is they were probably taught that their brother’s wellbeing was more important than their own from the beginning, and even if they could have chosen back then, they probably would have let him off the hook, just let everyone else. Forgiveness may be important, but so is justice, and so is equality. Clearly things the Duggars just don’t know the meaning of.

Courtney Hardwick

Courtney Hardwick

Courtney Hardwick is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her work has appeared on AmongMen.com, 29secrets.com, therichest.com, and ELLECanada.com.  When she isn’t writing about relationships, and the best TV shows and books you should really already know about, she is working on her novel. She hopes to have it published by 2025. You can follow her on Twitter @Courtooo.

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