Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar sat down with Megyn Kelly of Fox News for an interview that aired on Fox News Wednesday night. This post is a summary of this interview, as well as my own observations and commentary about the interview and the issues at hand. My overview of the second interview with Jill (Duggar) Dillard and Jessa (Duggar) Seewald can be read here.
I wrote an article about why this sex abuse scandal matters that can be read here. Several people have told me that it was the best article they’ve read on this issue.
This post is in no way intended to serve as a transcript of the interview, but is an overview of what was said with some of my thoughts, comments, impressions and the like thrown in for good measure. It is no way intended to be the definitive summary of what was communicated.
Though not explicit, I feel to include a trigger warning because there is mention of some of the details of what happened.
The Duggar Interview: An Overview (Part 1)
First off, I didn’t even expect anyone from the Duggar family to do any kind of interview about what had happened. It’s important for the reasons that I listed in this article, but I don’t really expect anyone who is going through a family crisis to willingly put that crisis in the media [even more] for everyone to consume. But since they’ve done just that, I feel comfortable writing about it.
I sort of wish that this interview had been done by CNN, MSNBC, or one of the network news stations, instead of Fox News. The fact that it was Fox is good and bad. I think that it gave the Jim Bob and Michelle a “home field advantage” of sorts, but I felt that it also watered down the interview. Megyn Kelly asked some very good questions and they were all questions that people wanted to know, but I don’t feel that she followed up or particularly challenged them in any significant way.
Points of Interest
Here are a few facts that I felt were worth noting:
- Jim Bob and Michelle claim that the victims didn’t know or understand what had happened to them.
- Josh went to Jim Bob and Michelle on three separate occasions and confessed to inappropriately touching his sisters and a babysitter. The first time, the girls were sleeping and [supposedly] didn’t know that anything had happened. The parents said that in the subsequent incidents the touching that happened while the girls were awake, was just “a few seconds;” the victims didn’t realize what had happened, but Josh knew his intent and felt conviction afterward.
- All of the Duggar children went through professional counseling after this incident
- Arkansas DFS (or similar agency) gave the Duggars a ‘clean bill’, which was why they proceeded with the television show. As far as they were concerned, what had happened with Josh was a done deal.
- InTouch Magazine illegally obtained the police record. It shouldn’t have been released because of Josh’s age. **it has come to my attention that the police report was made when Josh was 18, making it very unlikely that this release was actually illegal. **
- Jim Bob took Josh to the Arkansas State Police Headquarters where they spoke with the officer who didn’t report the crime (and who later was charged with possessing child porn). Jim Bob was acquainted with the officer, but he was NOT a family friend.
Although this is a terrible situation, there are several things that are positive takeaways from the interview and this horrible situation:
- Jim Bob and Michelle seem just as strong, grounded, and dependent on their faith as they ever were. Some might ‘read’ them as being just as delusional as ever. I admit that there were several times that I cringed during the interview. Not because what they were saying was necessarily wrong but because I wondered how people who don’t share their worldview would respond. There were times that I cringed because I felt they tried to ‘smooth over’ some things that were pretty serious.
- The Duggars sought professional counseling for all of their children. Josh had to pay for his own counseling (I think that this was probably some rough form of restitution that the family implemented). There were a lot of rumors floating around that it hadn’t actually happened.
- It also sounds like the Division of Family Services (or similar agency) for their state was involved and that they were compliant with the services that were put in place. That means that the State of Arkansas likely gave them a list of things that they needed to do (likely including counseling and parenting classes) and they met or exceeded the criteria for their home to be deemed safe. That’s a big deal in my opinion.
- From a faith-based perspective: It was emphasized that after the third incident and being sent away from home, Josh realized the error of his ways and that he sought God and his heart changed. That doesn’t mean much to people who aren’t Christians, but that’s important people of faith because a major tenet of Christianity is that God/Jesus forgives people of their sins and changes them for the better. The Duggars reported a positive change in their son and that they had no further issues of that nature.
- The Duggars realized that they needed to set boundaries with how the children interacted with one another and were active in making their home a safe place for their children. They set rules for who could be where and with whom in their house and reiterated what behaviors were acceptable and unacceptable.
- It doesn’t sound like they victim blamed. There was a lot of junk floating around the Internet about how certain people loosely connected to the family believed/taught/promoted some fringe ideas on how to deal with sexual abuse. As strong and convicted in their beliefs as the Duggars are, I think they would have let on in some small way that they thought that way. From what I saw, they placed the responsibility for what happened squarely on Josh.
- I felt that the Duggars tried very hard to spin these events into a positive narrative about the power of faith and forgiveness. This goes a long way with people who have a similar worldview but is likely unsatisfying for those who don’t hold the same views.
There were several things that were said (or were left unsaid) that gave me pause:
- Where was Josh? I kind of question the reasoning behind doing the interview if Josh wasn’t going to participate. If Jim Bob and Michelle are the family spokespersons, then there was no reason to interview Jill and Jessa. In fact, I wish that the girls hadn’t been interviewed or identified at all.
- At one point, Jim Bob mentioned that they knew several other families that had been through similar things. That left me feeling some sort of way because I felt like he was almost trying to excuse what Josh had done. This felt very inconsistent with the tone of the rest of the interview.
- I felt uncomfortable with the whole, “The victims didn’t know what had happened and/or they didn’t understand what had happened.” That seems so implausible to me. I don’t think that Jim Bob and Michelle are lying, but I wonder if that’s what they have chosen to believe because that’s what the victims wanted them to believe. I truly hope that God did some sort of miracle that kept those girls from absorbing the weight of what happened.
- And the whole “It was only for a few seconds” that he touched them thing…purposely touching anyone on their private areas for any duration of time is wrong. Period.
The other red flag that it raises for me is how uneducated were these children about sex not to know that someone touching their breasts and vaginal area was wrong? I wish the interviewer had pressed them a little bit more for answers in this area.
The interview didn’t really change my views of the Duggar family or the situation. I feel that it’s all such an unfortunate series of events. I don’t think that it was handled in the best way by the parents or by law enforcement
I feel that Jim Bob and Michelle were/are being naïve as it concerns the incidents in question and their impact on those who were involved. I have trouble believing their narrative. I think that they believe their narrative, and I don’t think that they’re being deceptive in believing it. However, I don’t think that their beliefs about this incident are rooted in reality, but are more the product of their own optimistic worldview. Some people will always see the glass as full even when there’s two drops of liquid in it.
Law enforcement dropped the ball when they didn’t follow the correct procedures when these incidents were initially reported. They also dropped the ball in a HUGE way when they illegally shared their report with the tabloid magazine. That shouldn’t have happened. Period.
One of the biggest things that the interview clarified for me was that the family did notify law enforcement. It wasn’t immediately after the first event, but they did notify them before the Oprah Show incident that triggered the larger investigation. It’s a shame that the officer didn’t do his duty to make a report.
The other huge question that this interview answered was why they did the show given what had happened. According to Jim Bob and Michelle, they did the show because they had nothing to hide. It was something that they had to work through as a family and they felt a sense of closure on it so they moved on. They also felt like they didn’t have to expose what happened because it was all minors involved.
All of that makes sense to me. They didn’t ever think that it would come out because of the ages of the people involved and the fact that there was no criminal case. I can empathize with wanting to turn the page as a family and move on. A lot of people would say that they were being hypocritical, but I don’t think that they were being hypocritical in this sense. No one is perfect.
I feel that the interview was rather blasé as far as interviews go. There were no earth-shattering revelations. It went about the way that I thought it would: The Duggars got to tell their story in a forum that was generally amiable with no real challenge presented to them. The Duggars found a way to turn the focus to their faith (which I had expected and admire their gumption in doing so).
I will be interested to see what the aftermath of this interview and the girls’ interview on Friday will be. I think that the Fox News crowd will be happy with this interview and that it may save 19 Kids and Counting from the chopping block.