On Friday, TLC announced that it was pulling reruns of the network's original reality show 19 Kids and Counting following the revelation that Josh Duggar—the eldest son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar—had admitted to molesting multiple underage girls as a teen.
The story first broke following an investigation by In Touch magazine, which revealed that Josh, now 27, was the subject of a 2006 police investigation regarding the incidents. In the wake of the revelations, Josh resigned his post as the executive director of FRC Action, the lobbying arm of the Family Research Council, a major political organization for the Christian Right.
19 Kids and Counting first aired in 2008. Then titled 17 Kids and Counting, the show centered around the Duggars, a "Quiverfull" Christian family from Springdale, Arkansas. In its ninth season, which aired last fall, the show averaged 3.29 million viewers for its season premiere, and was the third most-watched show on Tuesday nights, behind America's Got Talent and NCIS. The show's tenth season aired in February.
A bit of context: The Quiverfull movement encourages Christian families to have have as many children as humanly possible. Quiverfull derives its name from Psalm 127:5, which states, "As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them." According to a 2006 Newsweek article on the movement, Quiverfull beliefs are strictly conservative. "Purists don't permit even natural family planning methods, such as tracking fertility cycles (the only form of birth control condoned by the Roman Catholic Church)," the article stated. "Also taboo: any form of artificial fertility treatment."
In 2014, Duggar patriarch Jim Bob and his wife Michelle gave an interview to Today explaining their views on sex. Michelle stated that a wife should always be willing to have sex with her husband. "Anyone can fix him lunch, but only one person can meet that physical need of love that he has, and you always need to be available when he calls." She also explained that the couple waits 80 days after childbirth before sex if they have a girl and 40 if they have a boy. This goes a long way in explaining why the Duggars have 19 kids in their family.
For more on religious fundamentalists, check out Cult Kids: Westboro
In addition to sharing their fundamentalist religious views on reality television, the Duggars are also very involved in Republican politics, and have endorsed a range of conservative politicians who share their Christian beliefs. The family supported former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign in 2008 and backed former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum in 2012 after Huckabee opted out of the race. Earlier this year, the Duggars announced they would support Huckabee again in the 2016 Republican primary.
"Governor Huckabee has the communication skills of Ronald Reagan," Jim Bob offered in a statement, "and a common sense business approach to government."
Huckabee, for his part, has endorsed the Duggars right back.
Jim Bob has also held public office himself. From 1999 to 2002, before the show aired, he served two terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives. Most of the bills he introduced during that time weren't all that interesting, perhaps with the exception of one piece of legislation, however, titled "AN ACT PROHIBITING CERTAIN ACTS RELATED TO NUDE DANCE PERFORMANCES BY PERSONS LESS THAN TWENTY-ONE (21) YEARS OF AGE AND EMPLOYERS OF THE PERSONS; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES."
You can read the bill (which died in committee) in full here, but basically it would have forbid "any dancing, stripteasing or other performing act describing, exhibiting, presenting or representing, in whatever form, nudity or sexual conduct" by anyone under age 21. Those over age 18 but under 21 who violated the bill (as well as their employers) would be subject to fines, and could face up to five years in prison for multiple violations.
In 2002, Jim Bob made a failed bid for US Senate, running in the Arkansas Republican primary against incumbent Senator Tim Hutchinson. During his campaign, he told the New York Times that he had been "called by God" to run against Hutchinson, whose family values bona fides were called into question after the then senator divorced his wife of 29 years and married a former staffer 14 years his junior.
Though the Times wrote that Jim Bob was "not regarded as a serious threat to Mr. Hutchinson's renomination," an element of his campaign has come back to haunt the reality star: As Gawker's Defamer blog pointed out Tuesday, Jim Bob's official campaign site claimed that "rape and incest represent heinous crimes and as such should be treated as capital crimes."
That harsh position now looks somewhat thorny, in light of the recent revelations about Jim Bob's eldest child. According to the 2006 report from the Springdale Police Department obtained by In Touch, in March of 2002 an underage girl informed Jim Bob that Josh Duggar had inappropriately touched her four or five times while she had been sleeping in a common room. A year later, Jim Bob was informed of another incident, in which Josh was accused of inappropriately touching another underage girl while she was seated on his lap.
The identities of the victims are redacted in the police report. Calls from VICE to the Springdale Police department requesting details about the redacted portions of the 2006 police report were referred to a media email address; an email requesting comment was not immediately returned.
At the time of the allegations, Josh's crimes were never officially reported to police. According to the 2006 police report, Jim Bob disclosed the allegations to the elders at the Duggars' church, who determined that Josh "needed to be put into a treatment program."
That treatment program in question consisted of "physical work and counseling," and lasted from March to July of 2003. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Josh was helping family friend and televangelist Bill Gothard with renovations on a Little Rock center for Gothard's Institute for Basic Life Principles. In March of 2014, Gothard resigned as leader of the Institute amid allegations of sexual harassment from multiple women, including by several female employees.
Last week, a judge ordered the record of the investigation into the accusations against Josh Duggar be destroyed. According to the same Arkansas Democrat-Gazette story, "Investigators also filed a 'family in need of services' affidavit with Washington County Juvenile Court." The paper reported that a trial titled "Josh Duggar vs. the Arkansas Department of Human Services" took place in August of 2007, and though Josh and his father were asked to comment on the case at the time, both declined.
On 19 Kids and Counting, Josh made at least one comment that might have landed him in hot water, given his views. The below video was recently unearthed by a savvy YouTuber, who found a joke that Josh had made about siblings going on a "double date" to a movie.
Drew Millard is on Twitter.