Reality TV star Jill Duggar Dillard burst into tears during an interview Friday night on Fox News that focused on the ordeal she and her sisters went through after allegedly being molested by their older brother.
The 24-year-old and her sister, Jessa Duggar Seewald, 22, spoke to Fox host Megyn Kelly about the alleged molestation by brother Josh Duggar and what their lives have been like since it came to light last month.
The allegations involving the family that stars in the TLC show “19 Kids and Counting” exploded when the tabloid magazine In Touch published a 2006 Arkansas police report showing Josh Duggar was investigated for sex offenses. He allegedly molested five girls more than a decade ago, while he was a teenager, with one of the victims being as young as 5 years old.
The family has since said four of the girls were his sisters.
Josh Duggar, who as an adult has worked as a conservative activist, resigned as executive director of FRC Action, the lobbying arm of the anti-gay Family Research Council, following the release of the report. He also issued a vague statement acknowledging he had done something wrong but had sought forgiveness.
The two sisters who spoke to Fox News for the Friday interview said they hoped to set the record straight about their brother and that they had forgiven him
The women remained composed throughout most the discussion, even smiling and laughing at times. But Dillard broke down when Kelly asked what it was like to find out the magazine planned to publish the police report.
“I called my husband and I was in tears,” said Dillard, whose wedding was broadcast as part of their popular television show. “I couldn’t believe what was going on. … It was whenever I heard the police report was being released, and I said, ‘What? Like they don’t have a right to do this. We’re victims. They can’t do this to us.'”
“And yet they did,” the Fox News host said.
“And they did,” Dillard said.
The Duggars spent a lot of the interview criticizing In Touch magazine for publishing the police report. Authorities had blacked out the names of the victims before its release, but visible parts of the report made references to suggest some victims were female members of the Duggar family.
At one point in the interview, Dillard said the magazine was “used to exploiting women.” Her sister, Seewald, described the magazine’s parent company, Bauer Media Group, which publishes glossy magazines throughout the world, as a “major porn provider.”
“They’re just used to making objects out of women,” Seewald said, “and maybe we just didn’t seem any different.”
Earlier in the interview, the daughters said they had been hurt by their brother’s actions.
Dillard said she was 12 when her brother touched her. Seewald said she was “9 or 10” at the time.
“I think in the case of what Josh did, it was very wrong. I’m not going to justify anything that he did or say it was OK. Not permissible,” Seewald said. “But I do want to speak up in his defense against people who are calling him a child molester or a pedophile or a rapist — some people are saying. I’m like, that is so overboard, and a lie, really.”
She went on to describe her brother as “a young boy in puberty” who was “a little too curious about girls” when the molestation allegedly occurred.
“But really the extent of it was mild, inappropriate touching on fully-clothed victims,” Seewald said. “Most of it while girls were sleeping.”
Both daughters said they were unaware of their brother’s actions until their parents told them about it. They said their parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, learned about it because their brother had “confessed.”
Earlier this week in a separate interview with Kelly, Jim Bob and Michelle told a similar story. But they said they grew most concerned after finding out that Josh Duggar had allegedly molested a girl while reading to her on his lap.
“That’s when we pulled [Josh] out of the house and said, ‘He can’t be here,'” said Jim Bob Duggar, a former Arkansas state lawmaker.
Yet there have been questions about how the Duggar parents handled the situation and what they told investigators about their son’s actions.
During Friday’s interview, the daughters defended their parents and described the “safeguards” that were put into place in their home.
“Not being alone,” Dillard said. “My parents said, ‘OK, we’re not going to do this hide-and-seek thing where two people go off and hide together.'”
“And not babysitting the girls,” Seewald said.
Kelly asked them about what safeguards were put in place for nighttime.
“Locks on the doors,” Dillard said. “Everybody’s in bed. Girls in the girls’ room, boys in the boys’ room.”
“And as a mother now,” Dillard said, “I look back and say my parents did such an amazing job for me.”