TLC has pulled episodes of its reality hit “19 Kids and Counting” on the heels of revelations that the family’s oldest son was accused of molesting five underage girls 12 years ago when he was a teenager. Some of the girls he’s accused of molesting were reportedly his own sisters.
TLC confirmed in a statement that the series had been yanked “effective immediately,” though it is not clear if the series has been canceled outright.
“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,” TLC said.
Word of the allegations against Josh Duggar, now 27 with three children of his own and his wife pregnant with a fourth, surfaced earlier this week. The Arkansas-based family issued a lengthy statement to People magazine on Thursday acknowledging the past incidents.
“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,” Duggar said in a statement to People. “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.”
The fact that the incidents apparently came to the attention of law enforcement officials raises questions about whether TLC or Discovery Communications executives were aware of Josh Duggar’s past when the series about the expansive Duggar clan was greenlit in 2008 after the family was featured in a series of specials. It’s unclear if charges were ever filed against Josh Duggar. TLC would not comment on the question of whether execs were aware of the incidents.
“19 Kids” just wrapped its ninth season last week. It was not immediately clear if more episodes had been ordered prior to the news this week.
The hasty shelving of “19 Kids” echoes the situation last year that forced TLC to cancel another successful docu series, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” The mother of the pre-teen beauty pageant contestant at the center of that show was accused of dating a man who had been convicted on child molestation charges.
“19 Kids,” like “Honey Boo Boo” and A&E’s “Duck Dynasty,” has been part of the trend of docu-series set among unusual families living in rural areas. The growth of what has become known as the “hillbilly” genre of reality TV has drawn criticism that class and cultural differences are being exploited in ways that exacerbate the nation’s rural/urban divide. The various controversies that have enveloped those three shows have only added more fuel to the fire that the shows perpetuate negative stereotypes about rural communities.
“19 Kids,” which bowed as “17 Kids and Counting,” revolves around the extended family of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, parents of Josh, who also issued a statement to People.
“Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives,” the pair said in a statement. “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.”
“19 Kids” has a been a staple of TLC’s schedule and a source of numerous specials as the older kids in the clan grow up and have children of their own. TLC most recently scored with the May 5 two-hour special featuring the birth of another grandchild for Jim Bob and Michelle.
Josh Duggar on Thursday resigned from his post as executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, an org described as having a mission to “fortify the traditional foundations of civil society.” It has advocated against same-sex marriage laws and other LGBT rights issues in various states.