This week, a shocking sequence of allegation, apology and repercussions rocked one of the most famous families in reality television. Josh Duggar, the oldest son of the Duggar family, apologized Thursday after a tabloid published allegations that Duggar had molested multiple young girls as a teenager. A day later, TLC announced that it had pulled all episodes of “19 Kids and Counting” off the air “effective immediately.” (The show just finished its most recent season on Tuesday.)
Although the developments moved quickly, the allegations themselves have existed out of the public eye for more than a decade. A police report obtained by In Touch Weekly and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette appears to detail those allegations, though the names of the suspect and all of the victims have been redacted from the report, because all were minors at the time.
In Touch Weekly, based on its unnamed sources, has said that the redacted suspect in the report is Josh Duggar. The Democrat-Gazette noted that the details of the report it has reviewed match statements made by the Duggars concerning the unspecified “wrongdoing” for which Josh Duggar has apologized. Although Josh Duggar was named by both publications and made statements of apology, he has not specifically addressed the molestation allegations.
What follows is a timeline of the case and some of its context, using the police report as a basis. The Democrat-Gazette has published an exhaustive investigation into the circumstances laid out in the report it obtained. The full document with police redaction was published by In Touch Weekly.
March 2002: This is when the Duggar parents say they were first made aware of allegations that a person in their home was improperly touching others, according to a 2006 statement to police. The couple added that the person confessed to the behavior in July of that same year. Josh Duggar would have been about 14 years old at the time these incidents occurred.
May 2002: Jim Bob Duggar, the family patriarch, who served in the state legislature as a representative from 1999-2002, loses a primary bid for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.
March 2003: According to the report’s 2006 statement from Jim Bob Duggar and his wife, Michelle, to police, there was a second incident that month. Jim Bob Duggar first told the elders at his church about the incidents about the same time.
March 17 to July 17, 2003: At the agreement of the elders at the Duggars’ church, the report says, the person was sent to a Christian treatment program.
In his apology earlier this week, here is how Josh Duggar appeared to describe a similar 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.”
In a separate interview with police, Michelle Duggar later says that the treatment program the person attended was not with a certified counselor but with a “guy they knew in Little Rock who is remodeling a building,” the report says.
The Democrat-Gazette has this to say about “the old Veteran’s Hospital in Little Rock,” the location given by Jim Bob Duggar as the site of the counseling:
Pulaski County assessor’s records show the nearly 500,000-square-foot former VA hospital building was purchased by Hobby Lobby in 1998.
The craft-store company then donated the building in 2000 to the Institute in Basic Life Principles, an Illinois-based ministry founded by televangelist Bill Gothard.
Shortly after the institute acquired the building, Gothard began renovating the space, saying it would be used for the Little Rock Training Center, which would house “court-referred youthful offenders in the organization’s Bible-based rehabilitation program,” according to an April 2000 article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Bill Gothard’s teachings have been promoted by the Duggar family in the past. In 2014, Gothard resigned from the Institute in Basic Life Principles following allegations of sexual harassment, molestation and failing to report child abuse. A spokesman for the Institute couldn’t confirm or deny to the Democrat-Gazette whether a youth treatment program was in place at the building in 2003.
July 2003: According to Jim Bob Duggar’s statement to police, this is the first time that the family tells a law enforcement official about the incidents in their home. The 2006 report says that the discussion between a church elder, a person believed to be Josh Duggar, and Jim Bob Duggar was with a corporal in the Arkansas State Police, who gave the person “a very stern talk” about his actions. The matter went no further at this time, according to the report, and the corporal told the group who approached him that because they “had already put [redacted] through a treatment program, there was nothing else to do.”
September 2004: The Duggars star in their first big national television special, “14 Children and Pregnant Again!” The special aired on Discovery Health. The Duggars did a series of specials from 2004 to 2007 that documented the births of the 15th, 16th, and 17th Duggar children, as well as the family’s move into a larger home.
May 23, 2006: Jim Bob Duggar runs in a Republican primary for a seat in the Arkansas Senate. He loses the primary bid by 200 votes.
Dec. 7, 2006: An anonymous tipster calls the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline, 3½ years after the first time the alleged offense was brought to police. Springdale Police reach out to the Duggar family to schedule interviews to investigate and are told that the family is in Chicago until Dec. 11.
On the same day, an anonymous source sends an e-mail to Harpo Studios in Chicago. The e-mail seeks to warn Oprah Winfrey’s television program against airing a scheduled interview with the family because of the allegations. The producers of Oprah’s show passed along the e-mail to law enforcement.
Dec. 12, 2006: Springdale police begin interviewing Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, along with the person believed to be Josh Duggar and the victims.
Dec. 20, 2006: Investigators determine that the statute of limitations has expired and that no charges may be filed.
2007: As Gawker reporter Allie Jones (who, for disclosure, was a past colleague of this reporter at the Atlantic Wire) has written, 2007 is approximately when similar rumors of sexual misconduct begin to appear online, mainly on comment threads and forums that focus on the Duggars. At the time, the rumors do not appear to be substantiated by any publicly available information.
The same year, a reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Times, who now works for the Democrat-Gazette, finds a court document for a case titled Josh Duggar vs. the Arkansas Department of Human Services. The Democrat-Gazette reports:
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.
According to the Democrat-Gazette, the reporter asked Jim Bob and Josh Duggar about the trial at the time, but they declined to comment.
2008: TLC’s series following the Duggar family, then called “17 Kids and Counting,” premieres.
June 2013: Josh Duggar, then 25, moves with his wife and children from Arkansas to Washington to take a job with the Family Research Council.
February to May 19, 2015: TLC airs the most recent season of “19 Kids and Counting.” One episode features the gender-reveal party for the child Josh and his wife, Anna, are expecting this year.
May 19: In Touch Weekly, a tabloid, publishes an article alleging that Josh Duggar was the subject of an investigation into allegations that he molested multiple girls as a teenager.
May 21: In Touch Weekly publishes a follow-up to its original article, this time with a police report online that, it says, details the allegations against Josh Duggar. In Touch reports that it obtained the police report through a Freedom of Information request. The Democrat-Gazette is also able to obtain the document through an FOI request, but a Thursday FOI request from The Washington Post was answered on the same day with a court order, dated May 21, ordering that the police report in question be destroyed. The order was a result of a “motion to expunge” from one of the alleged victims.
That evening, Josh Duggar issues an apology for unspecified “wrongdoing” he committed as a teenager, and he resigns from his job as the executive director of the Family Research Council’s lobbying arm. “Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret,” the statement reads.
This was Josh’s full statement:
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. 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. I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.
That evening, TLC continues to air a marathon of past “19 Kids and Counting” episodes.
May 22: TLC announces that, effective immediately, the network is pulling all episodes of “19 Kids and Counting” from its schedule. “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,” the statement says.
On the same day, Springdale Police Department spokesman Scott Lewis confirms to reporters that the department has destroyed the police report in question. Speaking to the Associated Press, Lewis says, “The judge ordered us yesterday to expunge that record … as far as the Springdale Police Department is concerned this report doesn’t exist.” Similar reports, Lewis added, are typically kept on file indefinitely.
Correction: An earlier version of this timeline listed the incorrect date for the first airing of “14 Children and Pregnant Again!” It has since been updated.