In the wake of a tabloid report alleging that he molested several underage girls while he was a teenager, reality-television star Josh Duggar said Thursday that he “acted inexcusably” and was “deeply sorry” for what he called “my wrongdoing.”
The 27-year-old Duggar, a high-profile member of the evangelical Christian family that stars on TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting,” also resigned his post with the Family Research Council, a conservative lobbying organization.
“Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret,” Duggar said in a statement posted on Facebook on Thursday. “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.
“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.”
Hours before Duggar’s statement, In Touch Weekly had published a partially redacted police report from the Springdale Police Department in Arkansas that, the tabloid said, contained details of the allegations against Duggar. The report redacted the name of the suspect and the alleged victims, all juveniles, but listed Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar as relatives. The incidents occurred in 2002 and 2003.
Josh Duggar is the oldest child in the family that stars in the popular show, “19 Kids and Counting,” which began as “17 Kids and Counting” in 2008. Duggar, his wife, Anna, and their three children live in Washington, where Duggar worked as executive director of FRC Action, the nonprofit lobbying arm of the Family Research Council.
The FRC, a conservative Christian organization led by Tony Perkins, is known for its advocacy against same-sex marriage, “with the mission to champion marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society.”
Perkins said in a statement Thursday that Duggar resigned from his post “as a result of previously unknown information becoming public concerning events that occurred during his teenage years.”
“Josh believes that the situation will make it difficult for him to be effective in his current work,” Perkins added.
Duggar was running a used-car lot before he became the new face of the Family Research Council. Duggar’s dad, Jim Bob Duggar, served in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1999 to 2002. As executive director of FRC Action, Josh Duggar would attend the major functions and share photos of himself with Republican candidates.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar said in a statement, also posted on the Duggar family’s Facebook page on Thursday, that the period 12 years ago was “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.”
Josh Duggar’s wife, Anna — who is pregnant with their fourth child — added that her husband told her of his “past teenage mistakes” two years before he proposed to her and that he had received counseling that “changed his life.”
The Duggars have endorsed Mike Huckabee for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, and on Friday morning, the former Arkansas governor said that he and his wife, Janet, wanted “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,'” Huckabee wrote on Facebook. “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 FRC, from which Josh Duggar resigned on Thursday, is known in Washington for hosting a Values Voters Summit, which regularly gathers Republican politicians trying to run for president. The organization’s budget in 2013 was about $13 million, according to its financial statements.
“Family Research Council is one of the major players among the pro-family social conservatives and has a major D.C. presence,” said Tobin Grant, a political scientist at Southern Illinois University, who compared the FRC to the Heritage Foundation or the American Family Association. “It still represents an old guard of people who are pushing the culture wars and traditional family values.”
Of the molestation allegations and Duggar’s apology, Grant said: “This is really going to hurt them. If it looks like hypocrisy, it’ll be, ‘Who are you to throw a stone?’ ”
FRC is often the go-to group when the media is looking evangelical, pro-family messages. In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center controversially listed FRC as an anti-gay hate group.
“I deeply regret that recent media reports about my long ago past has brought negative attention to FRC Action and its work to preserve and advance the interests of family, faith, and freedom in the political arena,” Duggar said in his resignation letter, which was published by People magazine.
“In good faith I cannot allow Family Research Council to be impacted by mistakes I made as a teenager,” he wrote.
In “Growing Up Duggar: It’s All About Relationships,” published last year, Josh Duggar was quoted as saying that “as I became a young man I was constantly tempted to have lots of wrong thoughts and often battled to keep my heart right.”
The book was written by the four oldest Duggar sisters. Josh Duggar added, in his interview with them, that he “often had failures in my early teenage years but I found that I had a clear conscience only when I was willing to confess my thoughts quickly to God and to my parents.”
Following a Freedom of Information Act request from The Washington Post for the police report published by In Touch, the Springdale Police Department responded by e-mailing a court document that ordered that the report “be destroyed and expunged from the public records … and that any and all copies of the same be destroyed.”
The court order was the result of a motion to expunge filed by one of the alleged victims. It was signed by Judge Stacey Zimmerman on May 21, the same day The Post’s FOIA request was submitted.
The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar told police they learned of a person improperly touching people at their home in 2002 and 2003, according to that Springdale Police Department report. Victims also told police they had been improperly touched, sometimes while they slept. The instances happened over a period of several months.
The person accused admitted to the actions, was disciplined and eventually sent to Little Rock for counseling for three months in March 2003. The decision to send the person to counseling was made after Jim Bob Duggar consulted with leaders of his church.
After returning from counseling, the person was taken by Jim Bob Duggar to an Arkansas State Police corporal. That officer gave the perpetrator “a very stern talk” but didn’t report the matter to child-abuse investigators, the report quotes Jim Bob Duggar as saying.
According to the newspaper, investigators eventually “concluded the statute of limitations had expired, precluding any possible sexual-assault charges.”
Investigators also filed a “family in need of services” affidavit with Washington County Juvenile Court, the report says.
The sealed Washington County Circuit Court file for “Josh Duggar vs. the Arkansas Department of Human Services,” CV 07-921, was found in 2007 by a Northwest Arkansas Times reporter, who now works for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A trial in that case took place Aug. 6, 2007, according to notes attached to the file. Sealed cases aren’t supposed to be left in public view, but the Duggar case file had been left in a stack of routine court filings at the circuit clerk’s office. The reporter saw no other information on the case at the time.
The newspaper added that “both Josh and Jim Bob Duggar were asked about the case in 2007, and both declined to comment.”
In recent years, the Duggars have lent their large family presence to a number of causes, informed by their Christian faith. Recently, Michelle Duggar successfully helped a campaign to repeal a Fayetteville, Ark., ordinance that would have prohibited discrimination in the city on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Duggars have been likened to the “Quiverfull” movement, which urges its followers to have as many children as God will give them.
Many Quiverfull-style families opt to homeschool their children, who are raised in the belief system of their parents. Although the number of adherents is small within the larger American evangelical Christian community, the Duggars’ large following and wholesome image have helped the family function as ambassadors for their way of life.
The Duggars have previously promoted the teachings of Bill Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles, a conservative organization that was once popular among the Christian homeschooling movement. Gothard resigned from the institute he founded in 2014, after allegations of sexual harassment, molestation and failing to report child abuse.
In his statement, Josh Duggar added: “I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions. I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.”
TLC, which airs “19 Kids and Counting,” declined to comment on the allegations against Duggar, his apology, or the network’s future plans for the series, a spokesperson told The Washington Post in an e-mail on Thursday evening.
But as news of Duggar’s apology and resignation swirled Thursday night, the cable channel broadcast a “19 Kids and Counting” marathon.
Abby Phillip contributed to this report, which has been updated multiple times since it was first posted at 7:35 p.m. on May 21.