Duggars speak about son’s sexual contact with daughters

NEW YORK (WISH/AP) — Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and two of their daughters spoke for the first time since police documents were released to InTouch Weekly about Josh Duggar sexually assaulting four of his sisters and another girl more than a decade ago.

Reality TV star Jessa Duggar told Fox News Channel on Wednesday that she was a victim of her older brother Josh Duggar, who fondled five girls when he was a teenager.

Jessa Duggar, featured like her brother in the family’s TLC series, “19 Kids and Counting,” told Fox in an interview conducted in Arkansas on Wednesday that she wanted to defend him. She said allegations he’s a child molester or pedophile are “so overboard and a lie,” Fox reported.

The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of sexual mistreatment. But Jessa Duggar is speaking publicly, in an interview that Fox’s Megyn Kelly also conducted with her parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. While Fox distributed Jessa Duggar’s quote Wednesday, it didn’t show it during the one-hour special about the case, with Kelly instead saying Fox would air the interviews with Jessa Duggar and her sister Jill Duggar on Friday.

The Duggar parents said Josh Duggar, who’s now 27, fondled four of his sisters and a family babysitter when he was a teenager and confessed to them. The fondling was done over the girls’ clothes and, except in two cases, happened when the girls were asleep, Jim Bob Duggar said.

“We took a lot of steps and first we tried to deal with this in-house as parents. We were in shock and we were trying to figure out what was the next step, but really looking back we did the best we could under the circumstances,” Jim Bob said. “This was not rape or anything like that. This was touching somebody over their clothes, there were a couple incidents when he touched them under their clothes, but it was like a few seconds and then he came to us and was crying and told us what happened and it was after that third time he came to us is where we really felt like you know what we have done everything we can as parents to handle this in-house, we need to get help.”

Josh Duggar apologized for unspecified bad behavior two weeks ago when the story came to light and resigned as a lobbyist for the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group.

“I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions,” Duggar wrote online. “In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.”

He has not spoken publicly about fondling his sisters or the babysitter and was not featured in Fox’s interviews.

“He’s very sorry,” Michelle Duggar said in the interview, wiping away tears.

She said the fondling devastated her and her husband and made them question whether they had failed as parents.

“It was a very difficult situation, but as we talked to other parents and different ones since then, a lot of families have said that they’ve had similar things happen in their families. So this is for us public shame that our son did this 12, 13 years ago,” Jim Bob said.

“We don’t let boys babysit. We don’t let them play hide-n-seek together, two don’t go off and hide. There’s just a lot of things that we’ve put in place and said you’re not alone in a room with someone else. Always be out visible and little ones don’t sit on big boys laps or people that you don’t know or even family members, unless it’s your daddy. So there’s boundaries that we’ve learned,” Michelle said.

Arkansas police last month said they had destroyed a record outlining a nearly decade-old investigation into Josh Duggar. No charges were filed in the abuse, which happened in 2002 and 2003. Police began investigating the abuse in 2006 when tipped by a family friend but concluded the statute of limitations had lifted.

Jim Bob Duggar said that before that investigation he had taken Josh Duggar to a Christian counselor and separately had him tell the stories to a state police officer near their home.

“We had all resolved it, we had forgiven, we had moved on in life,” Michelle Duggar said.

“19 Kids and Counting” is one of TLC’s most popular shows, coming off a season of strong ratings after featuring the weddings of Jessa Duggar and Jill Duggar. TLC pulled reruns of the show off the air when allegations concerning Josh Duggar surfaced two weeks ago. The network has said no decision has been made about whether the series will continue.

Jim Bob Duggar said the family is “fine whether they film us or not.”

“We’re just going to go on and live life,” he said. “We’re going to go on and serve God and make a difference in the world.”

The couple criticized the leaking of police records on the case as “an unprecedented attack on our family” that should be investigated.

Michelle Duggar said her daughters “have been victimized more by what has happened in the last couple of weeks than they were 12 years ago because, honestly, they didn’t even understand and know that anything had happened until after the fact when they were told about it.”

Jim Bob Duggar is a former state representative in Arkansas. Some of the state’s Republicans, including presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, have expressed support for the family.