If you haven’t been on the Internet and/or social media in the last 24 hours, then you probably haven’t heard the news about TLC's 19 Kids & Counting star Josh Duggar. Here’s what happened: In Touch Weekly found a police report from 2006 alleging that in 2002 Josh, the oldest child of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, had, as a young teenager, molested several young girls--including his own sisters--by fondling their breasts and genitals in their sleep.
According to In Touch’s report, the Duggar family closed ranks, choosing to punish Josh themselves. He and the victims received counseling, but the matter was still known to several members of their church and inner circle.
Duggar, 27, admitted to the allegations, releasing a statement to People that read: "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…I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life."
Duggar also resigned from his position at the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobbying group. His parents also released a statement,explaining that "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."
As the controversy continues to gain momentum, we can’t help but be bothered by a few nagging questions.
1. Who warned Oprah about Josh Duggar’s molestation allegations nine years ago?
Probably the most mysterious and fascinating aspect of this case is the anecdote that these allegations first surfaced nine years ago and were leaked to the queen of American media, Oprah Winfrey. At the time, the Duggars were just beginning their rise to fame and had already made a name for themselves through specials on the Discovery Channel. As the story goes, the Duggars were scheduled to tape a special with Oprah, but the show was called off at the last minute when producers received an anonymous letter accusing Josh of sexual misconduct. The show’s producers then alerted the Duggar’s local authorities, leading to the police report dug up by In Touch.
According to some reports, the person who told Oprah found out after reading a letter (detailing the molestation) that was left in a book owned by the Duggar family and leant out to the anonymous tipster.
2. Did TLC know?
Arguable the most surprising aspect of the whole situation has been the open response by the Duggars, with Josh admitting to the allegations and even his wife, Anna, releasing a statement that she’d known about the molestation for years.
“When my family and I first visited the Duggar home, Josh shared his past teenage mistakes,” the statement read. “I was surprised at his openness and humility and at the same time didn't know why he was sharing it.”
So if Josh was willing to come clean so quickly to his future bride, we have to wonder if he and his family were also upfront with TLC, the network that’s been home to their reality show 19 Kids & Counting since 2008. If so, that could mean trouble for the network TV executives and their already beleaguered PR department.
3. Will this torpedo Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign?
The only other person outside of the Duggar family to publicly stand in support of the Josh has been former Arkansas governor and current candidate for the republican presidential nomination Mike Huckabee.
In a statement posted to Facebook, Huckabee writes: “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. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story."
The online backlash against the Duggar has already been swift and negative, and Huckabee, a candidate who’s been courting evangelical Christian voters hard had already secured the family’s support, but could his decision to stand by the ultra-Christian reality show family hurt him with regular voters?
4. Will TLC cancel 19 Kids & Counting?
Initially, the Duggars’s network home responded to the allegations with “no comment” but as the online outrage grew, executives announced that they would be pulling all episodes from the air, both old and new. But there’s still no word on if the show will be canceled, much like another TLC show, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, was after its main participant began dating a convicted child molester. And a recent poll by the website TVLine found that 80% of people asked thought that TLC should cancel the show.
5. Will the scandal hurt the other adult Duggar children’s chances of getting spinoff shows?
If the main Duggar show is in danger of cancelation due to the allegations against Josh, then the axe could also fall on other possible Duggar shows. Josh’s younger sister Jill and her husband Derrick have been rumored to be up for their own spinoff show, along with their infant son Israel (born April 2015), while Jessa Duggar is due to give birth this fall and was expected to be the subject of a special episode. Of course, all that may now be gone by the wayside.