ABOVE: Allison Vuchnich of Global News reports on the Josh Duggar scandal.
NEW YORK — TLC is pulling the reality series 19 Kids and Counting from its schedule after one of its stars, Josh Duggar, apologized for molesting underage girls when he was a teenager.
“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 Discovery Communications-owned network said in a statement late Friday.
Duggar resigned Thursday from the conservative Family Research Council (FRC) after an InTouch report revealed he was investigated by police in Arkansas in 2006 for multiple incidents of “forcible fondling” of minors — four of his sisters and another girl.
Duggar, a 27-year-old married father of three (with a fourth due in July), was executive director of the Christian lobbying organization.
In a message posted on Facebook on Thursday, Duggar wrote: “I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends.”
InTouch revealed that, according to details in a 33-page police report, Duggar’s parents and church knew about the sexual assaults but did not speak to police until 2006.
Questioned in December of that year, Jim Bob said he was told in March 2002 by a female minor that Josh had, on multiple occasions, touched her breasts and genitals while she slept. Jim Bob said Josh was disciplined and apologized to the girl.
Jim Bob told police there was another “incident” a year later. But, instead of going to police, he said the family put Josh in a counseling program at their church. (Michelle later admitted to police Josh did not, in fact, attend counseling but stayed with a family friend.)
It was not until July 2003 that the family took Josh to speak to Arkansas State Trooper Jim Hutchens, a friend of Jim Bob. Hutchens did not take any official action. (Hutchens is currently serving a prison sentence for child pornography.)
Police were notified in 2006 when The Oprah Winfrey Show forwarded an email it received from a woman who alerted producers to the sexual assault allegations. The show cancelled the family’s scheduled appearance.
Police interviewed Jim Bob and Michelle as well as several victims — but the three-year statute of limitations had passed so charges were not filed against Josh.
In his Facebook message on Thursday, Josh admitted he “confessed” to his parents, “who took several steps to help me address the situation.”
He wrote: “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.”
Duggar said he sought forgiveness from those he “wronged.”
Also on Facebook, Duggar’s parents said they were “shocked” when their son told them he had “made some very bad mistakes.”
“We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family. We have challenges and struggles everyday,” they wrote.
Josh’s wife Anna said in a statement she learned of the sexual assaults two years before they were engaged.
“Josh shared his past teenage mistakes. I was surprised at his openness and humility and at the same time didn’t know why he was sharing it,” she said.
Anna described her husband as “someone who had received the help needed to change the direction of his life and do what is right” and “a man who knows how to be a gentleman and treat a girl right.”
Among those lashing out at Duggar is TV personality Montel Williams, who tweeted: “What kind of parents are these people?”
But, Duggar also got some high-profile support. On Friday, U.S. presidential candidate Mike Huckabee — a former Arkansas governor who has known the Duggar family for decades — posted a statement on Facebook in which he said Josh’s actions are inexcusable but not unforgivable.
“Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things,” wrote Huckabee. “The fact that he confessed his sins to those he harmed, sought help, and has gone forward to live a responsible and circumspect life as an adult is testament to his family’s authenticity and humility.”
In his letter of resignation from the FRC, Duggar said he is “heartbroken” that attention has been diverted from the group’s “noble causes” due to “my wrong actions as a young teenager.”
He added: “I cannot allow Family Research Council to be impacted by mistakes I made as a teenager.”
He wrote: “Josh believes that the situation will make it difficult for him to be effective in his current work. We believe this is the best decision for Josh and his family at this time.”
Josh is an outspoken opponent of equal marriage and also protested a local ordinance in Arkansas that would have allowed people to use washrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identities.
“We have to make sure that we’re standing up for the rights of privacy and protecting the well-being of women and children,” he said during an FRC radio show.
In a robocall message, Josh’s mother Michelle warned residents about the implications of the ordinance.
“I don’t believe that citizens of Fayetteville would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas reserved for women and girls,” she said. “I doubt that Fayetteville parents would stand for a law that would endanger their daughters or allow them to be traumatized by a man joining them in their private space.
“I still believe that we are a society that puts women and children first. Will you speak up for protecting women and children?”
Here’s a sample of the vitriol for Duggar on social media: