Seven Ethics Observations On The Josh Duggar Child Molestation Revelations

19 kids

Yes, this is an Ethics Train Wreck.

First, some background:

“19 Kids and Counting” is another reality show featuring the exploitation of children for their parents fame and profit broadcast by the  cable channel TLC, the same shameless bunch that bought us “Jon and Kate Plus 8” and the trashy Honey Boo-Boo Bunch.It began as “17 Kids and Counting,” became “18 Kids and Counting,” and but for this emerging fiasco, might have kept adding numbers, and little unpaid performers,  ad infinitum.  The show featured the godly, conservative, fertile Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their nine girls and ten boys, all of whose names begin with the letter “J.” Since the show began, three of the children have been married and several grandchildren have been born. The series began on September 29, 2008.  February 17, 2015 marked Season 10.

In response to emerging reports that oldest son Dugger son Josh, now 27, was once accused of molesting five underage girls as a teen, Josh Duggar, his wife Anna, and his parents Jim Bob and Michelle jointly explained the circumstances, which had not been revealed outside the family until now. “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,” Josh said  in a statement. “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 then resigned from his position at the Family Research Council.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar had this to say about their son:

“Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives. When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes, and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before. Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God. We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family. We have challenges and struggles every day. It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God’s kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us – even though we are so undeserving. We hope somehow the story of our journey – the good times and the difficult times – cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything.”

TLC cancelled the show. It said, on its Facebook page,

“Effective immediately, TLC has pulled all episodes of 19 Kids and Counting currently from the air. We are deeply saddened and troubled by this heartbreaking situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and victims at this difficult time”

Then GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee issued his own Facebook statement in support of Josh and the family:

“Janet and I want to affirm our support for the Duggar family. Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable.’ He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story. Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things. The reason that the law protects disclosure of many actions on the part of a minor is that the society has traditionally understood something that today’s blood-thirsty media does not understand—that being a minor means that one’s judgement is not mature. No one needs to defend Josh’s actions as a teenager, but the fact that he confessed his sins to those he harmed, sought help, and has gone forward to live a responsible and circumspect life as an adult is testament to his family’s authenticity and humility. Those who have enjoyed revealing this long ago sins in order to discredit the Duggar family have actually revealed their own insensitive bloodthirst, for there was no consideration of the fact that the victims wanted this to be left in the past and ultimately a judge had the information on file destroyed—not to protect Josh, but the innocent victims. Janet and I love Jim Bob and Michelle and their entire family. They are no more perfect a family than any family, but their Christian witness is not marred in our eyes because following Christ is not a declaration of our perfection, but of HIS perfection. It is precisely because we are all sinners that we need His grace and His forgiveness. We have been blessed to receive God’s love and we would do no less than to extend our love and support for our friends. In fact, it is such times as this, when real friends show up and stand up. Today, Janet and I want to show up and stand up for our friends. Let others run from them. We will run to them with our support.”


1. TLC deserves this. Its practice of rewarding star-struck parents who use their children as props and cash cows while subjecting them to the disruptions and stresses of filming a TV show is unethical, as was well-explained by child star advocate and defender Paul Petersen when he was an early critic of the “Jon and Kate Plus Eight” TLC show. He wrote in part,

“…and I’ll remind everyone that this is nothing new.  The Dionne Quintuplets were exposed to this kind of public consumption seventy years ago.  The Loud Family was ripped apart by participating in the PBS production of “The American Family.”  Even under the best of circumstances the consequences of early fame can have devastating…lethal consequences.

“I am painfully aware that the use of juveniles in so-called reality shows is a genie that has long since escaped the bottle.  That fact should not prevent us from asking the hard questions or preparing ourselves to intervene when children are put up for sale by even the most well-meaning parent.”

These shows celebrate irresponsible parenting and feature irresponsible parents. That something like this occurred in a mega-family in which sufficient parental supervision is all but impossible should not shock anyone, and TLC has been courting disaster with all of its freak family reality shows. Maybe this will be the one that teaches the former “Learning Channel” a lesson. I doubt it.

2. The family had an ethical obligation to let TLC know that this looming scandal was in the mix when it signed on to do the show. TLC had an ethical obligation to thoroughly investigate the family it was presenting to America as an inspiration. Both failed.

3. The Duggar waited a year after the abuse took place to report it to authorities.  That constitutes reckless endangerment of the girls in the house. It’s fine to say that they did what they thought was best, and that it’s a difficult situation, for both are true. However, if a couple is going to have 17 or more children, they had better have lots of resources, wonderful judgment, and be master parents, and letting a serial child molester stay around his younger sisters is dangerous, foolish and incompetent. Rather than put Josh into traditional counseling and treatment programs, the Duggars, according to police reports,  assigned him to do construction work for a friend of the family in the belief that hard labor would cure their son’s problem. They are lucky that he didn’t molest other girls.

Of course, we don’t really know that he didn’t, do we?

4. Josh Duggar also had an ethical obligation to inform the Family Research Council of this episode in his past, because secrets tend to come out, and the harm to the organization was predictable.

5. Ma and Pa Duggar’s statement was nauseating, and these elements  nicked ethical standards:

  • Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God. 

Representing the sexual molestation of five girls as a cloud with a silver lining and a blessing in disguise is spin, even from a religious perspective, and callously ignores the victims. Do they see their abuse as bringing them closer to God?

  • We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family.”

That would be a lot easier, don’t you think, if you didn’t hide those imperfect features from the audience, no?

6. Mike Huckabee’s statement is unethical and offensive in many respects. It is appropriate to forgive a 14 year old boy who does something horribly wrong, and parents who may not have handled a difficult crisis perfectly. But the Duggars were not “honest and open about it” to authorities, not when they waited a year to report it, and they were not sufficiently open and honest about it to various parties to whom they owed a duty of transparency and honesty. Neither was Josh. Nor does Huckabee know that John has “gone forward to live a responsible and circumspect life .” He was never treated. The statistics suggest that the chances that Josh isn’t cured of his proclivities is high. This—

“Those who have enjoyed revealing this long ago sins in order to discredit the Duggar family have actually revealed their own insensitive bloodthirst, for there was no consideration of the fact that the victims wanted this to be left in the past and ultimately a judge had the information on file destroyed—not to protect Josh, but the innocent victims.”

—is outrageous. The family has been presenting itself as a model, loving, virtuous family on national TV for ten years. That’s a fraud on the audience, and arguing that the misrepresentation had to be protected out of concern for the victims is either a dishonest one or criminally stupid. If the Duggars wanted to protect the victims from the story being publicized, they could have kept the family off of cable, like 99.99999 of the rest of America. Huckabee is claiming that nobody should reveal the dirt laundry of a family that wears it on TV!

7. Many of the attacks on Huckabee, however, are also dim-witted. Here’s one that calls Huckabee a “fat turd in the lard of hypocrisy’ because he assailed defenders of Roman Polanski and David Letterman, as well as Roman and Dave. That’s right, a confused and maladjusted14-year old boy should be held to the same standards as powerful Hollywood director who rapes a 13-year-old and a powerful, married TV star who demands sexual services from employees. People this analytically handicapped make rational discussions of ethics futile.


Sources: Discussionist, People, Yahoo!





33 thoughts on “Seven Ethics Observations On The Josh Duggar Child Molestation Revelations

  1. I’m reminded here of the story of another show biz family’s daughter, Alison Arngrim (of “Little House on the Prairie” fame). While still a preteen, she was molested by her own brother, himself an active actor. This was not a case of fondling or groping, either.

    Anyone who can harbor (much less act upon) such urgings at so young an age is a disturbed personality who is liable to be capable of anything further down the line. I pray that Josh Duggar has found his way out of that demonic mindset he was in back then. And yes, I pray for the entire Duggar family.

    But what of the girls he forced himself on… to whatever extent? Their lives will forever have this darkness attached to them. He was incurred a moral debt to them and to all who trusted in him that he can never pay off. He has likewise dragged his family’s good name into the mud and embarrassed a lot of good people who took him at face value.

    I don’t blame the family for not wanting to publicize such a terrible scandal, but they shouldn’t have allowed their son to play such an active role in their affairs, even if it was in a true spirit of contriteness. This sort of thing cannot be dismissed as “a mistake”! That term has come to be the synonym for gross criminality by celebrities in our present day.

  2. It’s rather worse than your account implies.

    1. The Duggars are members of Gothard’s IBLP movement. Gothard resigned after multiple credible accounts of child and adult molestation (1)

    2. The IBLP “counseling” of victims assumes they are at fault, and teaches them to be ashamed and to cover it up. (2)

    3. The police officer who the Duggars reported the incident to was a very, very close personal friend. He is alleged to have “spoken severely” to Josh, He didn’t pass on the report, as he’s legally required to do, and is currently doing 56 years for a second offence of pedophilia.(2) By reporting in this way, the statute of limitations becomes 3 years, not 10 years after the victim’s majority.

    4. The records have now been destroyed at the request of one of the victims, who is still a minor. Meaning at least one victim was no more than 5 years old.(4)

    5) Recently Michelle Duggar made a controversial robocall warning that a human rights bill for Trans people was an open invitation to them as child molesters. The bill was defeated. (5)






    • Except that the Duggars’ political and social conservatism advocacy has, or should have, nothing to do with the assessement of the family’s conduct in this case, which is objectively unethical, and would be if they were progressive whale-watchers who lived in a commune So religious people produce their share of sexual predators: we’ve known that for a very long time. The glee with which the gay marriage advocates have pounced on the episode as some kind of proof that all of their opponents are Hellspawn is obnoxious, and simply post-event ad hominem attacks. I’ll assess their ethics based on their response and actions in this episode. Michelle Duggar’s robocalls aren’t germane. The fact that her husband molested girls as a teen doesn’t suggest that she’s pro-molestation, or that Josh is, for that matter.

      • Michelle Duggar’s robocalls aren’t germane. The fact that her husband molested girls as a teen

        While there may be a whiff of suspicion of that, there’s no concrete evidence, and unless such evidence comes in, we’re not justified in even raising the suspicion, despite his close association with other pedophiles.. Only her son has confessed to it.

        Had she not been a part of the cover-up, I’d agree that it would be irrelevant. However, had it been revealed that she was the mother of a child molester, her credibility would perhaps have suffered. Had it been revealed that she was part of the cover-up for a child molester, then it definitely would have suffered.

        So I feel it is germane here.

  3. “Except that the Duggars’ political and social conservatism advocacy has, or should have, nothing to do with the assessement of the family’s conduct in this case . . . ”

    Assessment of Josh Duggar’s (and his parents) conduct is one thing. Assessing whether or not Josh Duggar and his parents have an ethical basis for launching offensive hate grenades against members of the LGBT community is quite another–or don’t you count hypocrisy when you’re considering whether conduct is ethical?

    Also, if you don’t think that Michelle Duggar’s hysterical robocalls comparing trans persons to pedophiles–when she knew her own son had molested several of her daughters–is “germane”, I would suggest that you are not someone who should be consulted as any kind of authority on what constitutes ethical conduct.

    I can probably find other, better examples of “obnoxious”, but your pompous characterization of SSM advocates as “gleeful” because they object to the hypocritical moralizing of the Duggars, the Huckabees, whose own ethical report cards feature failing grades certainly takes the cake.

    • What cake? This is a post about a reality TV show’s ethical breaches, and the evasive spin being placed on Josh Duggar’s late admission as well as the family’s handling of the situation. Like so may others, you don’t know what hypocrisy is. Look it up; I’m thoroughly sick of ignorant comments like yours.

      If a family has a serial killer in the family, is it hypocritical for them to express opposition to ISIS? If a family defended its son against charges of theft ten yeras earlier, is it hypocritical for it to refuse to hire an employee who was convicted of embezzlement? Your version of “hypocrisy”—and I don’t care how many LGBT warriors are dishonestly (or stupidly) embracing it, is untenable in logic, fairness or the English language. Don’t attack me because you don’t comprehend what hypocrisy is.

      “Assessment of Josh Duggar’s (and his parents) conduct is one thing. Assessing whether or not Josh Duggar and his parents have an ethical basis for launching offensive hate grenades against members of the LGBT community is quite another.”

      Damn right, and the post was about the first part of your sentence. There is no basis on which to marginalize the Duggars’ conservative position on LGBT issues as “hate”…it may be a sincere interpretation of their honestly held religious beliefs. It may be ignorant, it may be hurtful, it is definitely wrong, and it is doomed to fail, but it is still based on morality that you and I do not follow, and that does not make it “hate.” Nor is there anything hypocritical about a former molester or his wife strongly condemning what they see as immoral behavior now. And, I would say, obviously. Past conduct does not preclude revised beliefs with passage of time. You, being an idiot, probably also believe that parents who used drugs in high school are hypocrites if they tell their children that it is a bad idea.

      You and I are on the same side of this issue, but your tunnel-vision and emotional framing of a debate that can be won on facts, logic and ethical principles alone makes you a useless advocate. Read my lips: when I write about one incident of unethical behavior, it is neither necessary or obligatory for me to expand the discussion into every realm the subjects of the post have been involved in, and yes, the LGBT crowd has been verey gleeful about Josh’s revelation, in part because they love love love seeing the Family Reaserch Council embarrassed. I don’t blame them for that, but don’t deny the glee. Dan Savage was just on MSNBC criticizing the tone of some of his allies, calling it inappropriate. Of course, Savage also called the Duggars hypocrites, so you are in good (or bad) company with your similar ignorance of the term.

      • Nonsense – most pedophiles and other perverts persecute GLBT people. It’s called “misdirection” – accusing the innocent so their own crimes won’t be detected.

        Look at the situation in Gainesville, Florida in 2009
        The Gainesville City Council was to vote on amending their discrimination policy to include transgender protections. The culprit here is the hate based organization called Citizens for Good Public Policy. Their dirtiest trick was the creation of a video featuring an undesirable black man in men’s street clothes lurking by a public bathroom in a park frequented by white children. After a five or six year old girl goes into the bathroom, he is seen following her in. The footer reads “Your City Commission Made This Legal”. There is nothing to suggest their odious proposition that passing trans protections will legalize this kind of victimizing behavior. In a side note, one of the antagonists in this campaign, a CVS manager, admitted to filming women in his store’s restroom

        We’ve seen this over and over and over again. “Anti-Gay Pastor caught in child porn sting” etc.

        Not everyone who is anti-GLBT molests children of course. Some just cover it up, or collect kiddie porn, or install hidden cameras in female restrooms. Many more are entirely innocent, I’m sure. Well, I think.

        I can’t imagine you ever doing that, or being in the slightest bit tolerant of those who do. Others of like mind? Oh yes.

        • See

          “The CVS Pharmacy manager who allegedly admitted Friday to filming women in his store’s bathroom was an active participant in the 2008 charter amendment to “keep men out of women’s restrooms.”

          Matheny signed the petition, according to records with the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office, and opponents of the charter amendment say they received reports that Matheny allowed the petitions to be distributed and signed at his store. Those behind the drive said the amendment was essential to prevent men from using the public-accommodation portion of the law to enter women’s restrooms and film, rape or otherwise prey on the opposite sex.”

        • Maybe you’ve been replaying a few sordid occurances over and over in your mind, Zoe! You might note that when such people are found to be perverts themselves, they are forced to resign. One cannot be a moral leader if his own life has been dominated by devilish motivations.

          But that is, of course, the usual “pedophile priests” distraction that the deviant movement uses when trying to throw the spotlight off of themselves. Again: This is not a question of homosexuals vs. heterosexuals. Pedophilia is another form of perversion. It doesn’t matter a damn if the pedophile has been living a facade as a husband and father. His motivations are those of a pervert of the worst order.

          All deviants are peas in the same pod. As one “cause” progresses, the others venture out of their holes to proclaim their own “liberation”. And so their common endeavor (which has always been thus) moves forward. In the dark depths of their souls, they are all alike.

          • Larry Brinkin is “proof” that all gay rights activists are pedohiles, at least if we are to assume the correctness of zoebrain’s post.

  4. For a good summary of the situation from someone with experience in many similar situations, see

    One part struck me, as I’d been thinking along the same lines

    Maybe Josh Duggar is a pedophile. Maybe he is a narcissistic jerk who will tend to rape and assault. But it is also possible that at age 14, the bad teachings simply bore their entirely predictable results.

    Please read the whole thing.

    It isn’t just the Duggars, of course. Within the last two years, the three most visible representatives of the Patriarchy movement have all gone down in sexual flames. Gothard resigned after more than 30 women came forward with stories of how he assaulted and harassed them. Phillips (Vision Forum) folded his organization after it came out that he had sexually assaulted a young woman who worked for him. And now the Duggars, who were extremely close with both Phillips and Gothard have proven (as I predicted) to have some serious sexual skeletons in their own closets.

    At some point, this ceases to be “bad luck” and “media conspiracy” and becomes what can only be described as bad fruit. The teachings themselves are incurably rotten, and lead to rotten, reeking, putrid fruit.

        • True, but zoebrain claims that the ” teachings themselves are incurably rotten, and lead to rotten, reeking, putrid fruit”. This is why we need to use the example of Larry Brinkin to “prove” that support for gay rights and gat sexuality is “incurably rotten, and lead to rotten, reeking, putrid fruit”.

  5. Thanks for doing all the research and for passing it on, Zoe. Keep your pecker up!

    I may be crazy, but between #9 and #10 in the Counseling Sexual Abuse pamphlet, between Your Body and God’s Body, I could swear there is a graven image: could be Mohammed, could be the head of a teddy bear . . . . Okay, I am indulging in a moment of levity. What I meant to say was that adults who remain deeply damaged from childhood atrocities such as perpetrated by Duggars, et al, are among those I deal with on a daily basis. It affects every aspect of their lives. Their. Pain. Does. Not. Stop.

    • I’m sorry. Thank you for doing what you can to help them.

      That’s really what’s most important. Trying to prevent these problems, and trying to help those who have been damaged.

      Retribution etc – that should be strictly secondary, we have more important things on our minds.

      • The way to prevent “those problems” is to get those proven capable of deviancy out of circulation- hopefully before they do serious harm to others- and intensely counsel them in morality and reality. If you can identify the problem early enough, you may be able to save the offender, too. I get the impression that this is what Mr. Duggar had in mind for his son Josh after consulting with the elders of his church. I’m not yet prepared to offer an opinion on the rights or wrongs of it, except that much hinges on whether Josh Duggar was removed from contact with those affected children immediately after the discovery of his transgressions and given firm counseling and parental guidance from that moment on.

  6. Little late here but much has happened since this post. Josh and his wife recently had their fifth child and dealing with adultery not long after the scandal.

    I agree with it all except let me say this about 7. Yea Josh was minor but it happened THREE times until Jim Bob and Michelle took action after one year then the non-family member he touched. If you truly honestly believe something is wrong, you don’t repeat it. The girls obviously knew it was wrong, which leads me to believe it happens frequently in their circles as they claimed ..

    While I do put 99% of the blame on parents,14 is plenty old enough to know it’s wrong and minors get tried as adult all the time though they may be penalized differently. Many grew up like him and didn’t molest siblings.They are right about Huckabee.

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