It has been weeks since the story emerged that Josh Duggar sexually assaulted five underaged girls, including some of his sisters, as a teenager. On Wednesday night, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly interviewed Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, marking the first time they broke their silence about the child molestation scandal.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, heads of the conservative Christian family of the popular TLC show "19 Kids and Counting," revealed horrifying details of the scandal, among them that four of the five girls that Josh Duggar molested were his sisters.
The elder Duggars said that they were "devastated" when they discovered details about the molestation — which they referred to as "improper touching" — but also appeared to defend Josh, who his father said "was just curious about girls." They also revealed that they first sought to handle the issue at home, ultimately removing Josh from the house only when he molested one of the youngest daughters.
After the interview aired, many who previously criticized the family's handling of the scandal said that the Duggar parents seemed to present the issue in a way that minimized the gravity of the abuse. "What was just sad to me ... was how willfully ignorant the Duggar parents are about child sexual abuse," attorney Lisa Bloom said. "They don't seem to have educated themselves then or now about the facts."
The scandal was first made public after unnamed officials released the juvenile records to the media. The Duggar family said that the leak had violated their privacy and indicated that the scrutiny was partly motivated by their Christian values. Jim Bob Duggar told Kelly on Wednesday that it was an "unprecedented attack on our family."
To many, the family's handling of the molestations and the subsequent publicity surrounding it reflected the skewed values of the deeply conservative Christian sect, Quiverfull, which they are affiliated with. Many also pointed to the hypocrisy in their forgiveness of a Josh Duggar for his actions, considering the family's history of intolerance.
The Duggars have long been vocal on the LGBT community and women's reproductive rights, including damning the gay community, implying that transgender women are child-molesting pedophiles and accusing women who have abortions as participating in a "baby Holocaust."
Highlighting child sexual abuse prevention
Although TLC has pulled reruns of "19 Kids and Counting" — one of its top-rated reality shows — from its schedule, network officials have yet to comment on the Fox News interview.
As the media continues to cover the scandal, some activists are looking to pressure TLC to dedicate as many resources to sexual abuse prevention awareness as it has to promoting the show. Teresa C. Younger, president of the Ms. Foundation for Women, wrote in an Op-Ed in USA Today:
Today's headlines offer us the chance to refocus public attention on what to do if you know or suspect a child is being abused — even in your own home or family. We cannot afford to waste that opportunity. We hope that TLC will use the same platform it gave to the Duggars to help protect children.
If the Duggar scandal has done nothing else, at the very least, it has brought to our attention the pressing need for child sexual abuse prevention across the country.
Watch the interview below (note: sensitive content).