Inside the scandal that tore the Duggar family apart

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    Josh Duggar, the eldest of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar’s 19 children, stunned fans when he admitted to « wrongdoing » when he was a pre-teen. Josh admitted his guilt in May 2015, after In Touch Weekly uncovered police reports from 2006, investigating a subject believed to be Josh for allegedly molesting his underage sisters and a family friend when he was just 14 years old. 

    « 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. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation, » Josh said in a statement about the incidents that took place in 2002 and 2003, via Facebook. « 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. »

    After the public’s immediate shock subsided, the Duggar family tried to pick up the pieces of their shattered image. Two of Josh’s victims, sisters Jill and Jessa Duggar, defended Josh in an interview with Megyn Kelly, while Michelle and Jim Bob implemented new rules in their household to prove that they were taking the situation seriously. Despite the family’s attempt at damage control, secrets about the scandal continued to surface, including a certain daytime TV legend’s involvement before the news broke. On that note, here’s everything you need to know about the scandal that tore the Duggars apart.

    What were Jim Bob & Michelle thinking?

    On of the questions that surfaced in the wake of the scandal was: Did Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar respond to Josh’s actions appropriately? 

    According to a heavily redacted 2006 police report obtained by In Touch Weekly, a subject believed to be Josh, who was a minor at the time, confessed to his parents on three separate incidents between March 2002 and March 2003 that he had inappropriately touched several other female minors in the house. After Josh’s second confession, Jim Bob said that they « disciplined » him. For the third confession, Jim Bob claimed he « met with the elders of his church and told them what was going on, » which resulted in the decision to send to send Josh to a two-month « Christian program in Little Rock … [that] consisted of hard physical work and counseling, » starting on March 17, 2003. Jim Bob contacted authorities after Josh returned home from Little Rock, but Josh received nothing more than « a very stern talk » from a « corporal in the Arkansas State Police » because he had supposedly completed a counseling program. The parents insisted there were no additional incidents « since Josh went through the program » and that « all of this had been resolved. » 

    In a piece examining Jim Bob and Michelle’s reaction to Josh’s actions, NBC News spoke with two authorities on child abuse, who both agreed that while it’s natural for parents to feel protective towards their children, the proper authorities should have been contacted sooner.  

    What did Oprah Winfrey know?

    During the height of the Duggar family’s fame in 2006, they were supposedly in talks with Oprah Winfrey to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show. But a troubling email reportedly sent to Winfrey’s Harpo Studios on Dec. 7, 2006 brought the rumored discussions to a screeching halt, according to E! News. The email in question — that was written by an unidentified « 61-year-old female » — accused Josh Duggar of inappropriately touching minor victims, while warning production that the Duggars are « not what they seem to be, » according to In Touch Weekly. « I think that you should know the truth before they make a complete fool of you and your show, » the tipster added. 

    Harpo Studios then contacted the Department of Human Services hotline via fax, and the Springdale Police Department received a copy of the correspondence at on Dec. 12, 2006. That same day, Josh and his parents were questioned about the email and the unknown source’s allegations at the Children’s Safety Center in Springdale, Arkansas. 

    As for who led investigators to Josh? The Duggars told police that sometime between 2002 to 2003, « a family friend » detailed Josh’s inappropriate actions in a letter. That letter was then « placed in a book » that was loaned out to someone in 2006. And the rest, as they say, is history. Although it’s unclear whether Winfrey knew about the behind-the-scenes drama, it’s fair to argue that her team played a significant role in the 2006 investigation.

    About Josh’s counseling…

    In their interview with Megyn Kelly, Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar revealed more details about the so-called training center where Josh was sent after his third confession. « At that point, we pulled Josh out of the home and we knew of a man who mentored young men, » Jim Bob said about the situation. « And he really helped young men who had made unwise choices in their lives to get straightened out and he was running a little training center in Little Rock, Arkansas. »

    It’s possible, however, that Jim Bob stretched the truth a bit regarding this « training center. » The 2006 police report touched on this claim, using Michelle’s own words (via In Touch Weekly): « It was not really a training center. »

    As for whether this mentor was a certified counselor, the answer was also no. This revelation came to light when Michelle was questioned by officers in 2006. « Det. [Darrell] Hignite asked if the guy [redacted, Josh] talked to was a certified counselor. She said ‘No,' » the report stated. « She said it was a guy they know in Little Rock that is remodeling a building. Det. Hignite asked if the guy was more of a mentor. She said ‘Kind of.' »

    The debate about how society should treat inappropriate sexual behavior is a complex one, but some sex abuse prevention organizations — like Stop It Now! — often recommend seeking professional help for these types of issues.

    Did Jim Bob lie to police?

    Arkansas state trooper Joseph Hutchens, the first officer who spoke to Josh Duggar about his inappropriate actions, claimed in an interview published by In Touch Weekly that Jim Bob Duggar initially downplayed his son’s behavior. Hutchens alleged that during the 2003 conversation, Jim Bob told him that « Josh had inappropriately touched » a female victim (name redacted) while she was asleep and that it « only happened one time. »

    Hutchens ultimately decided not to report Josh’s actions to higher-ups, an arguably fateful decision given that the statute of limitations had run out by the time of the 2006 investigation. « I did what I thought was right and obviously it wasn’t, » he said about the choice. « If I had to do it over again, I would have told him immediately, ‘I am going to call the hotline’ and contacted the trooper that worked those cases and have a full report made. I thought I could handle it myself. »

    The ex-trooper added: « I have lost a lot of sleep over it. I am a Christian myself and I worry that something else may have happened. I would be responsible for it, in my opinion, by not reporting it. The young girl should have been my first priority. » 

    A Duggar friend, however, contradicts Hutchens’ claims. « I’m not saying he is a liar, but my recollection is that Joshua came clean and told everything, » they said, according to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette

    The disturbing truth about Hutchens

    In a unsettling turn of events, Hutchens — the aforementioned state trooper Jim Bob Duggar contacted in 2003 — pled guilty to eight counts of possessing child pornography in 2007, according to court documents obtained by the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Authorities found multiple images on Hutchens’ computer of « prepubescent children » being sexually abused, while also finding disturbing internet searches for similar illicit content, according to court documents reviewed by HuffPost. The report also found that between 2004 and 2005, Hutchens « spent considerable time on his computer viewing child porn. » Talk about a disturbing situation.

    Although Hutchens received a five-year sentence for the crimes, he was freed in 2010 on a « suspended-sentence agreement, » according to HuffPost. But In March 2010, the ex-trooper was arrested for a second time on child pornography charges. As of this writing, Hutchens is serving a 56-year sentence for 10 counts of distributing, possessing or viewing child pornography, per the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

    We’re relieved to know justice has been served in this case. 

    No hide-and-seek allowed

    When Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar filmed the construction of their massive home for TLC, fans probably didn’t think much about the property’s detailed design. A blueprint of the house obtained by the Daily Mail seems to suggest, however, that the parents designed the house with their kids’ safety in mind. Not only are the girls’ and boys’ wings on opposite ends of the compound, but the kids have to walk past Jim Bob and Michelle’s master suite to get to either side. Even more interesting? The girls’ room is right next to Michelle’s office. Although the parents have never explicitly said that they designed their property to avoid potentially inappropriate situations, it’s fair to wonder if this was the case. 

    But wait — that’s not all. « Safeguards » — as Jim Bob described it to Megyn Kelly (via People) in June 2015 — were put in place to avoid inappropriate situations. « 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, » Michelle explained to Kelly.

    Jill Duggar also touched on safeguards topic in her interview with Kelly (via Us Weekly), saying that hide-and-seek isn’t allowed in the Duggar household. « Locks on the doors. You know, everybody’s in bed, » Jill added. « Girls in the girls’ room. Boys in the boys’ room — as a mother now I look back, and I think, you know, my parents did such an amazing job for me. »

    Jessa & Jill play offense for Josh

    Two of Josh’s five victims, Jessa (Duggar) Seewald and Jill (Duggar) Dillard, vigorously defended their older brother in an interview with then Fox News host Megyn Kelly. Jessa was especially protective of Josh in the June 2015 sit-down, characterizing the public’s reaction as « overboard » and referring to the inappropriate touching as « mild. » 

    « I’m not going to justify anything that he did or say it was ok, not permissible, but I do want to speak up in his defense against people who are calling him a child molester or a pedophile or a rapist, some people are saying. I’m like that is so overboard and a lie really, I mean people get mad at me for saying that but I can say this because I was one of the victims, » Jessa explained. « Like in Josh’s case, he was a boy, a young boy in puberty and a little too curious about girls. And he made some bad choices, but really the extent of it was mild, inappropriate touching, on fully clothed victims, most of it while girls were sleeping. »

    Jill spoke about forgiving Josh, stating: « I had to make that choice to forgive him, you know. And it wasn’t something that somebody forced like, ‘Oh you need to do this.’ It’s like, you have to make that decision for yourself. »

    Of course, Jessa and Jill are allowed to handle the situation however they see fit, even if fans might not agree with their reactions. 

    The Duggars’ legal loss

    Josh Duggar’s sisters, who were the victims of his « wrongdoing, » filed a lawsuit against Bauer Media, In Touch Weekly‘s parent company, on the grounds of privacy invasion. Jill (Duggar) Dillard, Jinger (Duggar) Vuolo, Jessa (Duggar) Seewald, and Joy-Anna (Duggar) Forsyth argued that their rights were violated after the public learned about Josh’s molestations, even though their names were redacted in the 2006 investigative report that was unearthed in May 2015.

    The sisters also named the city of Springdale, Arkansas, as well as the city’s police officials, in the suit. They argued officers assured them that their personal accounts would remain private, and that « police are forbidden from disclosing any information related to sexual misconduct involving children, » TMZ reported.

    City officials fought back, however, telling TMZ at the time: « The claims and allegations in this lawsuit are without merit and are false, and we are confident that the Federal Court will take the time to carefully hear the facts and arguments in this matter … It is unfortunate that now, at this late date, the Plaintiffs have chosen to file a misguided lawsuit against dedicated public servants and seeking damages from public tax dollars. »

    The reality stars lost the suit in October 2017, with a judge ruling that In Touch Weekly simply exercised its First Amendment Rights. Additionally, the court ruled that the publication had a right to release the information under the Freedom of Information Act.

    Josh goes to court

    Josh Duggar resigned from his position at the the conservative Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. after his past actions came to light in May 2015, per The Washington Post. The eldest Duggar then returned to his hometown of Arkansas to resume his job as a used car salesman, a far cry from his days hobnobbing with Republican politicians in Washington. Though it as reported that he seemed « happy » about the return to his roots, Josh also sued the the city of Springdale and Washington County in March 2018, accusing city and county officials of wrongly publicizing the 2006 police report.

    « The facts included in said investigation were not a matter of public records and, in fact, were protected from disclosure by Arkansas state law, » the lawsuit stated, according to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Josh’s suit argued that, because the investigative report went public, he suffered « significant emotional distress, mental anguish, and substantial lost income. »

    As for the city of Springdale’s response to the suit? Officials described Josh’s claim that his « expectation of privacy » was violated as « absurd, » considering he was a reality TV star, « a leader in national, political, and civic organizations, and engaging in public speaking, » when the scandal surfaced, according to Radar Online. In November 2018, Radar additionally reported that « the judge tossed out [Josh’s] entire case. » Ouch.

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