The schadenfreude would be absolutely delicious if the story weren't so sickening. 27-year-old Josh Duggar, the eldest son of the Duggar family -- the Christian zealots who parlayed their unwillingness to stop churning out children into a multi-media empire -- now admits publicly to molesting several little girls when he was a teenager, many of them his own sisters. He was forced to come clean after an In-Touch magazine article, published earlier today, detailed a 2006 police report revealing that Josh had confessed his acts to his father, Jim Bob Duggar, but the family patriarch withheld the information from police for a full year. Five young girls apparently had their breasts and genitals forcibly touched and groped by Josh, both while they were sleeping and while they weren't. According to In-Touch, the report had remained hidden until the magazine filed a Freedom of Information Act request. The investigation treated Josh's crimes as felonies.
In a statement to People, a friendly outlet that regularly provides the Duggars with positive coverage, Josh Duggar cops to the investigation and the actions that led to it, saying, "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 continues, "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." Josh has now resigned his executive position at the Family Research Council in Washington, DC, one of the most powerful groups in America lobbying against gay marriage, abortion and other conservative causes.
Now it's true that Josh Duggar did eventually speak to the authorities about what he'd done, but that's the thing: it happened eventually. According to the 2006 felony investigation report, Jim Bob claims he first learned about what Josh was doing when one of the little girls involved came to him and said that she'd been molested several times. That was in March of 2002. By July of 2002, Josh had apparently confessed to Jim Bob, but everything seems to have been kept within the family. Josh was "disciplined," the report reads. Jim Bob told investigators that about nine months later, however, there was "another incident" involving several minors. Rather than go to the police immediately, Jim Bob spoke with the family's church elders and they decided to discipline the teen by way of a “program (that) consisted of hard physical work and counseling." That program, however, turned out to be nothing more than a home remodeling business run by a friend. There was no counseling at all involved.
Jim Bob finally brought Josh to the authorities when the latter returned from his "Christian program," in July of 2003, and even then he was taken only to a personal friend of Jim Bob's, an Arkansas State Trooper named Jim Hutchens. Hutchens did nothing more than give Josh a "very stern talk" and wouldn't pursue a case beyond that. Interestingly, Hutchens is now serving a 56-year prison sentence on child pornography charges.
As we've learned over and over again throughout history, it's never the crime so much as it is the cover-up. With that in mind, here's where things get interesting. Police say Jim Bob Duggar was first alerted to the possibility that his son was a child molester in March of 2002. He chose to handle it quietly within his family rather than going to the authorities. While most outside of the state of Arkansas know the Duggars as the family from 19 Kids and Counting, it's important to remember what earned them their celebrity in the first place -- what drew attention to the family on a national level: it was Jim Bob's powerful political position in Arkansas. From 1999 t0 2002, Jim Bob Duggar served in the Arkansas House of Representatives for the sixth district. And, more importantly, in March of 2002, Jim Bob Duggar was running for the United States Senate. He was just two months away from his primary against fellow Republican Tim Hutchinson. Granted, Jim Bob was polling badly and would go on to get clobbered, but accusations of child molestation within the family isn't something any fundamentalist Christian candidate wants to find himself attached to during crunch time of a campaign for Senate.
It's not hard to see how this kind of thinking might have continued throughout the Duggars' rise to fame across the nation. Jim Bob Duggar again ran for public office, this time the Arkansas State Senate, district 35, in 2006. Apparently, at no point during that campaign were the incidents with Josh made public. The Springdale, Arkansas investigation doesn't appear to have begun until late 2006 and was reportedly triggered by an anonymous e-mail forwarded to Oprah before the Duggars were scheduled to appear on her show. In other words, Jim Bob Duggar was still ostensibly involved in politics -- although he had lost his primary earlier in 2006 -- and his family was now famous enough to be granted an audience with Oprah. That could help explain why, during an interview with police in December of 2006, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar refused to allow investigators to talk to Josh. In-Touch says Jim Bob tried to hire two lawyers but that neither would take his case, this despite the fact that he was a former Arkansas State Representative and somewhat of a celebrity.
The 2006 investigation went nowhere because the statute of limitations had expired, but the stink from this is undeniable. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, Josh Duggar, and really the entire Duggar family have known about this for years and throughout their rise to fame and fortune as America's biggest and most squeaky-clean family of crusaders for Christ they said nothing. They kept it a complete secret. This wouldn't necessarily be a problem were it not for two things. One is that it's not hard to imagine Jim Bob and Michelle burying this precisely because it would tarnish their reputation and therefore bring the gravy train that's made them very rich, very famous people to a grinding halt. Two is that the Duggars aren't thelive-and-let-live types, which makes any effort to cover-up the child molester in their family an act of grotesque hypocrisy. Just last year, Michelle Duggar lent her voice to a robocall asking residents of Fayetteville, Arkansas to protest an upcoming anti-discrimination bill aimed at protecting transgender citizens. "I doubt that Fayetteville parents would stand for a law that would endanger their daughters or allow them to be traumatized by a man joining them in their private space," Michelle says in the recording. "We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child."
Knowing what we know now, just chew on that for a moment.
None of this even gets into the role that a highly religious, sexually repressive environment might play on a teenager already confused and screwed-up -- mostly because that's self-evident by now. We've seen it happen over and over again. But that's not what we have here, at least not when we're talking about Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. They aren't simply victims of their faith. They're calculating opportunists who knew exactly what they had to lose all along, at every stage of this travesty, and chose to ensure that they didn't.
God didn't make them do this and neither did the devil. Naked self-interest made them do this.