Duggar Family Reality Show Finally Gets The Axe After Molestation Allegations

FILE -- In this Aug. 2, 2007 file photo, Michelle Duggar, left, is surrounded by her children and husband Jim Bob, second from left, after the birth of her 17th child in Rogers, Ark. (AP Photo/ Beth Hall, File)
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TLC has decided to cancel its hit reality show “19 Kids and Counting” following accusations that star Josh Duggar molested underage girls, including his sisters, when he was a teenager.

The molestation accusations first surfaced back in May when tabloid magazine InTouch Weekly published a series of police reports that showed Josh Duggar, the eldest son of the ultra-conservative, Christian family featured in “19 Kids and Counting,” was investigated in 2006 for allegedly fondling five underage girls years earlier, when he was 14 years old.

TLC pulled episodes of the Duggar family’s reality show from the air a couple days after InTouch Weekly first reported the allegations. But the network waited more than a month and a half before deciding to pull the plug completely on its most-watched program despite increasing pressure from advertisers.

“It’s no secret that ’19 Kids and Counting’ was a really, really hit show,” Marjorie Kaplan, who oversees TLC for parent company Discovery Communications, told the Associated Press on Thursday. “But we have some other great shows, both on the air and in the pipeline.”

While their reality show, which ran for 10 seasons, is just now coming to an end, the release of the police reports had an immediate negative effect on the Duggar family. Josh Duggar, now 27, resigned his position as the executive director of the anti-gay Family Research Council’s lobbying arm immediately after admitting to vague “wrongdoing” in a Facebook post.

Parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar later sat down for a lengthy, inconsistent interview with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly in which they confirmed that four of their son’s alleged victims were his sisters. The fifth victim was a babysitter, they said.

Two of the sisters Josh Duggar allegedly abused, Jill Duggar Dillard and Jessa Duggar Seewald, now 24 and 22 years old, respectively, also sat down with Kelly to talk about what they went through as children. Both sisters said they were unaware that they had been abused until their parents told them about it and said they do not believe their brother is a child molester.

Jill Duggar Dillard burst into tears at one point during the interview as she described how it felt for their family ordeal to become public.

“I couldn’t believe what was going on,” she told Kelly. “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.'”

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar on Thursday thanked their film crew and their fans in a statement on the reality show’s cancellation.

“With God’s grace and help Josh, our daughters and our entire family overcame a terrible situation, found healing and a way forward. We are so pleased with the wonderful adults they have all become,” they said. “It is our prayer that the painful situation our family went through many years ago can point people toward faith in God and help others who also have lived through similar dark situations to find help, hope and healing, as well.”

Kaplan, the executive who oversees TLC, told the AP that the network now plans to shine a light on child abuse and partner with the Duggar family to achieve that goal. She said that an hour-long documentary featuring survivors of childhood sexual abuse, including two of the Duggar daughters, and their families is scheduled to air in August.

Still, a spokesman for Discovery Communications told CNNMoney that TLC’s parent company wouldn’t rule out a Duggar family spin-off show. It seems unlikely, then, that the politically-connected reality TV family will fade into total obscurity following the molestation scandal.

This post has been updated.

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