The Duggars’ Fox News Interview Was an Unholy Disaster

At various times downplaying their son’s molestation of their daughters and playing the victims themselves, the Duggar family dug themselves a bottomless PR hole.

06.04.15 4:36 AM ET

Whether or not Michelle and Jim-Bob Duggar are hypocrites, I suppose, is still a matter of debate. Whether they are despicable asshats, however, most certainly is not.

Appearing on Fox News to answer Megyn Kelly’s questions about the scandal they’ve found their sprawling brood of holier-than-thou religious conservatives embroiled in, the matriarch and patriarch of the family featured in the TLC series 19 Kids and Counting dug themselves into a PR hole no amount of high-minded righteousness can get them out of.

Michelle and Jim-Bob were interviewed for two ostensible purposes. One was to explain themselves in the wake of the revelation that their eldest son, Josh, molested five girls, including siblings, 12 years ago, after which they took strides to cover it up and skirt the law as they eventually rose to fame on a TV reality show.

The other was to defend themselves against accusations that they are religious hypocrites.

They have used their fame to preach principles that, to many, could be construed as hateful, but they’ve defended as pure and moral. Women who have abortions are complicit in a “baby Holocaust,” they’ve said. They’ve damned the gay community. Michelle has recorded robocalls implying that transgender women are pedophilic child molesters.

They’ve campaigned against proposed ordinances that would have protected gay parents from lawful discrimination when it came to raising their children. And they’ve taught their daughters that women should submit to men.

All while their son molested children, and they helped to bury it.

People who may have assumed that the Duggars agreed to a Fox News interview, of all outlets, because it may be a more hospitable environment weren’t exactly correct.

Megyn Kelly may not have wagged a finger at them or damned them to hell, the way so many of us wished she would have. But she did ask them tough, responsible, and necessary questions.

Kelly asked why they protected a son who was harming their daughters. She asked for details that would refute the accusations that they covered his misdeeds up. She asked them if they were hypocrites. She asked specifically about Michelle’s comparing transgender women to child molesters. And Michelle stood by it. “It’s common sense,” she said, proving that she has no blessed idea what “common sense” is.

More, she thinks people accusing them of hypocrisy have an unholy ax to grind.

“Everyone of us has done something wrong. That’s why Jesus came,” she said. “This is more about—there’s an agenda. There are people who are purposing to bring things out and twisting them to hurt and slander.”

Yes, folks, they are the victims.

Is it possible to pick just one jaw-dropping, blood-boiling, unfathomable quote from this interview? Oh, there are dozens of them (and counting).

Certainly a front-runner for the top prize would be when Michelle maintained that her daughters are being more abused by the press in the wake of the uncovering of Josh’s scandal than they were by Josh as children. “They’ve been victimized more by what happened in these last couple weeks than they were 12 years ago,” she said.

What a disgraceful thing to say. If we’re throwing stones from glass houses and talking about “protecting” victims, how about we, as members of the press, talk about how we’re protecting the world from being influenced by bile like this by vilifying Michelle and Jim-Bob Duggar after this interview.

The Duggars presumably consented to being interviewed as a PR tactic to rehab their family’s image and, because everyone is the worst and everything is awful, salvage their dynamo reality TV careers and remain famous. Sweet Jesus did they fail.

At best, they came off as bumbling Bambis, wide-eyed and unable to convincingly change any of the preconceived negative notions about how their family handled Josh Duggar’s molestation of five victims over the past 12 years. At worst, they came off as molestation apologists.

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“We tried to deal with this in-house as parents,” Jim Bob said, talking about why it took so long to involve police. “We did the best we could under the circumstances.”

They stuttered and stopped and started as they explained the details of it, and more—and disgustingly—explained away Josh’s actions. At one point the sentence, “It’s not rape or anything like that,” was actually said. Actually said.

It wasn’t the only minimizing of the events from the Duggars. The girls didn’t know it had happened, they said repeatedly, basically insisting that because they weren’t aware they were being molested it was perfectly OK that they were.

Other families have said they had sons who did similar things, they argued. And—hey!—as parents you’re not mandatory reporters of child molestation anyway.

You could see Michelle Duggar’s eyes rolling into the back of her head as she struggled to remember the PR talking points she had memorized for the interview. Words like “safeguards” and “devastated” and “counseling”—vaguely defined—were recited as nonsensical and, frankly, unbelievable word soup.

The biggest narrative of the interview, though, was the assertion that their family is being victimized. There was outrage that the sealed juvenile record of their son was released publicly and, they claim, illegally.

The press is on an onslaught criticizing the family for such amoral behavior like covering up the molestation of children and harboring their daughters in a very unsafe environment, but those people aren’t chasing the right story, Jim-Bob said. It’s that unjust release of the records, “That is the big story,” he said.

Quite grossly, two of the daughters who were Josh’s victims were brought on air to weep and defend their brother and their family. Maybe they were supposed to be further evidence that the Duggars are not hypocrites, that the family solidarity and culture of forgiveness they foster warrants them to stand on soap boxes as if they were pulpits, criticizing the rest of us.

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Jim-Bob answered to that directly. “People on the outside think Christians are perfect,” he said when Kelly asked if they think they’ve been hypocritical. And because they’re fallible, they shouldn’t be deprived of their God-given right to an exploitative TLC reality series.

“I don’t know if the rest of our family should be punished for the act of one of our children,” he said. “Whether they film us or not, we’re going to live life and continue to spread God’s word.”

Are the Duggars hypocrites? No, not exactly. Hypocrites are guilty of the same crimes as those they are accusing. The transgender community, gay parents, anyone who doesn’t prescribe to a Biblical way of life hasn’t done any of the things the Duggars accuse them of.

If not hypocrites, what are they? Misguided is one word. Ill-informed is kind. Disgusting is more accurate. Perhaps they’re monsters. And what makes it even worse? We’re Dr. Frankenstein.

We made these people. We gave them a reality show. We made them superstars. Whether we were among those who lapped up their endearing family values and charming family interactions on 19 Kids and Counting, or we were among those who watched them to point and laugh at their curious religious practices, like modestly dressed animals in some zoo exhibit, we all created them. And what we’ve created are monsters.

Now, what do monsters do? They roar. They growl. They snarl.

To that regard, these are parents who gladly took the megaphone we gave them with the public platform of their hit reality TV show, held on to it with a white-knuckle grip, and used it to shame the rest of us for living impurely and raising our children without proper morals.

Politicians used them in their campaigning. Viewers looked up to them, internalizing and acting on their instructions and beliefs. These people became cultural influencers. And, perhaps as karmic punishment, we must deal with the reality that we made that possible for them.

At one point, I wondered whether TLC was smart to not pull the plug on 19 Kids immediately after the scandal broke. I thought that maybe giving the Duggar family time to explain themselves and then chronicle how they dealt with the stress and fallout of the controversy—and especially how they dealt with all the accusations and attacks against them in this past week—would actually make for valuable and responsible television.

We glorify this family on camera when they’re at their best, so maybe we deserve and owe it to ourselves to document how they grapple with devastation when they’re at their worst.

But this interview with the Duggars proves there is no merit in that. There’s no merit in giving any more publicity to these people who are delusional, victimizing themselves, and the worst kind of preachers of God’s word: the ones who don’t bother to follow it themselves.