In the first of two Fox News interviews featuring the stars of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar talked to anchor Megyn Kelly about the day their son Josh confessed to molesting his sisters.
In response to reports that he was accused of molesting five underage girls when he was a teenager, Josh — along with his wife, Anna, and Jim Bob and Michelle — issued a statement to People on May 21 admitting he “acted inexcusably.” Wednesday night’s interview was the first time that it was revealed four of his younger sisters were among the victims.
Describing the scandal as one that “generated hundreds of thousands of headlines,” Kelly began the interview with a warning that its content is “not intended for younger viewers.” After a video recap of what made the Duggars famous — their large brood, their ultra-Christian values and their controversial views on abortion and LGBT rights — the family patriarch and matriarch began the interview in their kitchen by explaining how Josh came to them in 2002 with the revelation that he fondled four of his younger sisters and a babysitter while they were sleeping.
“This was not rape or anything like that,” explained Jim Bob, who did most of the talking during the heavily edited interview. “It was touching someone over the clothes. It was, like, a few seconds, and then he came to us and crying told us what happened … as parents you feel like a failure when one of your kids does something wrong. If I had done more training this wouldn’t have happened. The truth is, kids will make their own choices, even though you have taught them right or wrong.”
The couple said their immediate instinct was to check on the well-being of their daughters, who they said couldn’t recall the incident. “We asked them at first if anything happened,” said Jim Bob. “We took a lot of steps, first to try to deal with it in-house as parents, and what was the next step. Looking back we did the best we could.”
Added Michelle Duggar, “They probably didn’t even understand it was improper touch.”
Once Josh came forward, the couple recalled feeling lost about what to do next. “We talked to him,” Jim Bob said. “We put all kind of punishments. We watched him all the time. I took him to work with me, we just poured our life into him.”
Here are other key highlights of the hour-long interview, which included suspicions from Michelle Duggar that the family and their hit TLC show were being targeted. “Every one of us has done things wrong. That’s why Jesus came. This is more about there’s an agenda, and there’s people that are purposing to try to bring things out and twisting them to hurt and slander,” she said.
When the couple decided to remove Josh Duggar from the house? When the abuse extended to the youngest daughter, they sent Josh to a Christian treatment program. “We knew a man who mentored young men, and he was running a training center,” Jim Bob said. “Josh would do construction work.”
Why didn’t they initially contact the authorities? “As parents you are not mandatory reporters,” said Jim Bob. “The law allows for parents to do what they think is best for the children. We sent him down to this place. It’s the best decision we made.”
Why they decided to a reality show seven years ago? “We had nothing to hide,” said Jim Bob. “We had taken care of all of that, years before. We had a clean bill of health from the state. We had no fear. That was actually a sealed juvenile record. They said it would never be brought out.”
Will the show be canceled? “At this point, our family is just trying to regroup from this attack. It’s been an unprecedented attack on our family. This information was leaked illegally. Why is all this press not going after the system for releasing juvenile records? That is a huge story. What our son did 12 years ago …sure that’s a major story too. Hopefully justice will be served.”
How did they react when Josh Duggar’s police record was leaked? “I said, ‘God, I know there are a lot of families hurting out there,” said Jim Bob. “This is not something we wanted to come out, but if people can see that Josh who did these very bad things when he was young person, that God can forgive him for these terrible things, then I hope other people realize that God can forgive them and make them a new creature.”
Who they think may have leaked the report? Kelly asked if the couple suspected the then-police chief, Kathy O’Kelly, and even flashed her picture. “Josh had talked to her one day at a meeting, stuck out his hand,” recalled Jim Bob. “She was getting ready to retire. Even a few weeks ago, she said ‘I’m getting ready to retire, there are few things I want to do to retire’. We are talking to attorneys about it. I think the big picture protecting juvenile records.”
How has the scandal affected their daughters? “They were shocked to hear this,” said Jim Bob. “It crushed them at first. No victim wants their minor story to be told. Every victim should have the right to tell their own story. Not a tabloid.”
Are they hypocrites for preaching about moral values? “I don’t think you go up to total strangers and go, ‘Hi, my name is so and so and I want you to know what I did as a child.’ Every family has things happen in the family,” said Jim Bob. “Our son violated God’s principles by doing some touching that was terrible. But yet I think it’s been recently said that what Josh said was inexcusable, but not unforgivable.”
How could Michelle compare transgender people to child molesters? “I think that protecting young girls and not allowing young men and men in general to go in [women’s bathrooms] is just common sense.”
Is Josh a pedophile? “Pedophiles prey on children,” said Jim Bob. “He was a child preying on a child.”
Kelly will speak to two of Josh Duggar’s siblings — who Fox News identified as Jessa and Jill — on Friday.