On Wednesday, 19 Kids and Counting parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar confirmed many of the allegations concerning their son, Josh, who molested four of their children and a babysitter by the age of fifteen. But man does that family make a lot of excuses. They make so many excuses.
The Duggars’ interview answers, which aired Wednesday on Fox News, tend to relate back to two main points: A. that some of the girls weren’t awake and were therefore unaware they’d been molested, and B. that it was just an over-the-clothes fondle, except, apparently, when it was under the clothes, but only “for like a few seconds.”
And Josh confessed on his own volition, they say. He kept doing it, but he felt very bad!
After Josh confessed to fondling a sibling under the age of 10, Jim Bob and Michelle sent him to do construction work with a family friend for a few months—a trip they’d later refer to as Christian counseling program—and had a police officer, now a convicted sex offender, lecture him. Eventually Jim Bob and Michelle had a few more kids, the family got a TV show, and Josh got excused.
The Excuse: “Josh had a tender conscience”
Michelle: We were shocked. I mean we were just devastated. I don’t think any parent is prepared for trauma like that. And I think we had one ray of hope that Josh had a tender conscience and he was the one that came and shared on his own, even though the others really didn’t know anything of his wrongdoing.
The Excuse: “They didn’t know he had done it.”
Megyn: Did he explain why? I mean is that a question that you asked?
Jim Bob: He said he was just curious about girls, and he had gone in and just basically touched them over their clothes while they were sleeping. They didn’t even know he had done it.
The Excuse: “None of them were aware.”
Jim Bob: We first off really talked to him. And then we talked to the girls.
Michelle: Because it was so important as parents to talk to our girls and make sure that nothing else had happened.
Megyn: And what did they say?
Michelle: Well, one by one, as we talked with them, none of them were aware of Josh’s wrongdoings.
Megyn: So they learned about it from you?
Both parents: Yeah.
The Excuse: “Similar things happen in other families”
Megyn: When you went to bed at night during that timeframe, were you scared? Were you worried, “You know, he’s 14, he’s having this problem, what’s going to happen when we go to sleep?”
Jim Bob: Nothing ever happened in the girls bedrooms after that. So we had safeguards that protected them from that. But there was another incident, two different instances where girls were, like, laying on the couch.
Jim Bob: And he had touched, like, over the couch, and actually touched the breasts while they were asleep.
Michelle: ...Over the clothes
Jim Bob: Yeah, over the clothes. And so it was a very difficult situation. But as we’ve talked to other parents and different ones since then, a lot of families since said that they’ve had similar things happen in their families. I mean this is, for us, of course, this is public shame that our son did this, back 12, 13 years ago.
The Excuse: “This was not rape”
Jim Bob: We thought at first that Josh was on the road to mend, but he was still a kid, you know, he was still a juvenile. He wasn’t an adult. And so there was a couple more times he came and told us what he had done, and we were just devastated. Again, this was not rape or anything like that. This was like touching over the clothes. There were a couple instances where he touched someone under the clothes, but for like a few seconds. And then he came to us, and was crying, and told us what happened.
The Excuse: “They probably didn’t even understand that it was an improper touch.”
Megyn: The subsequent incidents, after the first one, involved daughters who were awake. Or at least a couple of them?
Jim Bob: There was a couple, yeah, and they didn’t really understand.
Michelle: It was more his heart, his intent. He knew that it was wrong. But they weren’t even aware. To them they probably didn’t even understand that it was an improper touch.
The Excuse: “It was more just like fondling, a touch while they were asleep—for most of them”
Megyn: Just to clarify, it was four daughters and there was a babysitter outside the family
Jim Bob: Yes.
Megyn: And you notified her about the incident?
Jim Bob: Yes. He called her up and asked her forgiveness, and she didn’t know he had done anything, either. It was more just like a fondling, a touch while they were asleep—for most of them. Then there was two other incidents that were when they were awake. And it was just a bad thing.
The Excuse: “Why in the world would [the cop] say that? Maybe he’d get out on parole sooner.”
Jim Bob: At police headquarters, we went in and talked to him and said, “Hey, my son has something that he needs to share with you.” We actually took a witness with us. We went in and sat down and he shared everything.
Megyn: He told it all?
Jim Bob: He told everything. And we had no idea that what that officer was going through on his own.
Megyn: So the audience knows, that officer is now in jail for 56 years for child pornography charges. Did you have any idea he was involved in that at the time?
Michelle: That came out years later. We were, like, shocked to read that in the paper.
Megyn: So the critics who say, “Oh, they chose that guy because they thought he would be sympathetic.”
Jim Bob: I didn’t know anything about this guy except he was an officer there at headquarters.
Megyn: From now from prison, where he’s serving time for child pornography, he says, “Well he only told me about one incident and that’s why I didn’t pursue charges.”
Jim Bob: I was questioning, “Why in the world would he say that?” Maybe he’d get out on parole sooner. Because he actually violated the law in this case himself by not reporting it.
The Excuse: “There’s boundaries that we’ve learned”
Michelle: We still had those safeguards in place. I mean, it’s like there were a lot of things that changed in our understanding as parents, with this first child, first son, to come to this place in his life, where like, there were things we learned, even since then, that I think, “You know what, we don’t let boys babysit. They don’t play hide and seek together, two don’t go off and hide.” There are just a lot of things that we’ve put in place. We said, “You’re not alone in a room with someone else. Always be out visible, and, you know, little ones don’t sit on big boys’ laps or people that you don’t know or even family members, unless it’s your daddy. So we just—there’s boundaries that we’ve learned.”
The Excuse: “The legal definition is 16 and up for being an adult preying on a child.”
Megyn: Michelle let me ask you, because you were in the news for making a robocall that suggested transgender people might want to go into the bathrooms of girls, locker rooms of girls, and that they may be child molesters. Folks have used that in the past week against you saying how could you unfairly, in their view, compare transgender people to child molesters, suggest they are child molesters, knowing what you know about Josh.
Michelle: I think that protecting young girls and not allowing young men, and men in general, to go into a girls’ locker room is just common sense.
Megyn: But this is different, because you injected child molestation into it.
Jim Bob: I think you actually said pedophile in that, and actually a pedophile is an adult that preys on children. Joshua was actually 14 and just turned 15 when he did what he did. And I think that the legal definition is 16 and up for being an adult preying on a child. So he was a child preying on a child.
Megyn: You do not view Josh as a pedophile.
Both parents: No.
The Excuse: “I feel like this is more about... there is an agenda”
Megyn: Can you understand the critics’ reaction to this news?
Michelle: I can understand that, but I know that every one of us have done things wrong. That’s why Jesus came. I feel like this is more about... there is an agenda and there is people that are purposing to try to bring things out and twisting them to hurt and slander.
The Duggars used the word sorry twice on the program, explaining to Megyn that when Josh left the house they told their kids he had “done some very bad things and he’s, he’s sorry.” The second time was when Fox replayed the clip.