A History Of The "19 Kids And Counting" Stars' Anti-LGBT And Anti-Abortion Comments
After nine seasons on the air, TLC's 19 Kids and Counting, which follows the wholesome lives of the massive (and ever-growing) Duggar family, has become a reliable staple for the network.
The Duggars' fame was born out of the reality show fascination of the late 2000s around large and atypical families, starting with a popular set of Discovery Health Channel specials that eventually spawned shows like Jon & Kate Plus 8 and Little People, Big World.
But the Duggars have proven to be the most compelling and stable stars, with the six-year-old series still performing well, and an October wedding special garnering 4.4 million viewers, the network's biggest audience in four years.
But with the cancellation of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo due to a sex offender scandal, TLC and its programming, which often highlights people living on the fringes of society, has more eyes on it than ever.
Despite championing anti-LGBT and anti-abortion causes and campaigns off-screen, the Duggars, who consider themselves independent Baptists, have mostly remained unscathed.
That is until recently, when a petition calling for TLC to cancel the show began to pick up steam, collecting tens of thousands of signatures.
The petition, which had over 170,000 signatures at publication, argues that the J-named family has participated in "LGBTQ fear mongering."
Creator Jim Wissick wrote:
The Duggars have been using their fame to promote discrimination, hate, and fear-mongering against gays and transgendered people. You need to take a stand on the side of justice and cancel their show.
A counter petition in favor of the show has gotten over 200,000 signatures.
TLC, which canceled Honey Boo Boo one day after accusations came out, has not responded to BuzzFeed News' multiple requests for comment, and has been silent on the petitions in general.
Let's take a look at some of the controversial opinions the Duggars have expressed over their six years of fame:
During the 2012 presidential election, the family campaigned for Christian conservative Rick Santorum, whose platform condemned same-sex marriage and birth control.
In a March 2012 video, the Duggars said that they supported him for being "a defender of traditional marriage, protecting the core of our families."
In a May 2013 blog post, the Duggars described abortion as "An American Holocaust," and used the Holocaust Museum as a segue to discussing their views on abortion:
A couple of weeks after we went to the Holocaust Museum It dawned on us that there is a holocaust taking place right here in America!
More than 56 million lives have been destroyed in our country! That is over
4000 babies being killed and 4000 women being wounded each day!
After Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson was suspended in December 2013 for statements regarded as anti-LGBT, eldest child Josh Duggar came to his defense.
In a statement on the family's blog, Josh said:
Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty made some anatomical comparisons that were crude, but that isn't the real controversy here. The real issue is religious intolerance, and it shouldn't be tolerated.
He has a right to free speech and that includes his opinions on religion, life, marriage ...and ducks.
Two years earlier, Josh also defended Chick-Fil-A after its CEO's anti-LGBT comments.
In a February interview with Today, Michelle Duggar emphasized that women should always submit to their husband's physical demands.
"Anyone can fix him lunch, but only one person can meet that physical need of love that he has, and you always need to be available when he calls," she said.
In June 2013, Josh Duggar became executive director of the Family Research Council’s legislative action branch. The nonprofit is vehemently anti-LGBT and anti-abortion, and has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
"Now that Josh Duggar has accepted a position at such an anti-LGBT organization, he has become a full-fledged anti-LGBT activist," GLAAD wrote in a statement. "What does this mean for TLC's 19 Kids and Counting? Will TLC allow it to become a mainstream outlet for FRC's dangerous message?"
Update: On May 21, 2015, Josh Duggar resigned from the position after admitting to molesting young girls as a teenager, reportedly his sisters.
In August, Michelle Duggar recorded a transphobic phone call for voters in Fayetteville, Arkansas, protesting an anti-discrimination bill that would let transgender people use whichever bathrooms they were most comfortable in.
The bill would also "lift bans on public accommodation for LGBT people and grant them more house and employment rights," the Daily Beast reported.
In the call, Duggar likened being transgender to being a "child predator":
The Fayetteville City Council is voting on an ordinance this Tuesday night that would allow men – yes I said men – to use women's and girls' restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas and other areas that are designated for females only.
I don't believe the 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 that are reserved for women and girls.
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. We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child.
Parents, who do you want undressing next to your daughter at the public swimming pool's private changing area?
The anti-discrimination ordinance wasn't passed, though voters repealed this decision on Dec. 9.
In October, the family launched their seven-state "Faith, Family, Freedom" bus tour ahead of the November election, meant to promote candidates who also oppose same-sex marriage, abortion, and other "anti-family policies."
They also stumped for Governor Sam Brownback, who has spoken out against same-sex marriage.
In September, daughter Jessa came under fire for a verbose Instagram caption in which she "traced the roots of ethnic cleansing to the theory of evolution, then went one step further and likened abortion to the Holocaust," Salon reported.
I walked through the Holocaust Museum again today... very sobering.
Millions of innocents denied the most basic and fundamental of all rights--their right to life.
One human destroying the life of another deemed "less than human." Racism, stemming from the evolutionary idea that man came from something less than human; that some people groups are "more evolved" and others "less evolved." A denying that our Creator--GOD--made us human from the beginning, all of ONE BLOOD and ONE RACE, descendants of Adam.
The belief that some human beings are "not fit to live." So they're murdered. Slaughtered. Kids with Down syndrome or other disabilities. The sickly. The elderly.
The sanctity of human life varies not in sickness or health, poverty or wealth, elderly or pre-born, little or lots of melanin [making you darker or lighter skinned], or any other factor. ...
May we never sit idly by and allow such an atrocity to happen again. Not this generation.
We must be a voice for those who cannot speak up for themselves. Because EVERY LIFE IS PRECIOUS.
Commenters became rageful at the rant, with one replying, "While your pro-life viewpoints are totally valid and respectable, the fact that you would even think to make this comparison is absolutely dehumanizing to those involved in the Holocaust, and beyond disrespectful to all women, not to mention the ones who have actually had to choose to go through the difficult process of abortion."
In early November, after Jessa received criticism for a kissing picture on Facebook, Jim and Michelle issued a kissing challenge encouraging people to post their own. But pictures of same-sex couples were reportedly deleted.
"My post was soon deleted and I was banned from commenting, liking and posting any comments or photographs on their page," LGBT rights activist Charles Chan Massey told Radar Online.
John Becker, editor-in-chief of LGBTQ news blog The Bilerico Project, also said that his photo was deleted in a Facebook post: "It was getting lots of likes, but the Duggars must not have liked it very much -- they pulled it down and blocked me from posting, liking, or commenting on the page altogether. How sad that they feel so threatened by other loving marriages!"
The Duggars didn't reply to the controversy, but shortly thereafter posted this quote on their Facebook page:
Late last month, as the petition began to get picked up by a handful of media outlets, Josh Duggar led an anti-gay rally in Arkansas.
In a press release sent before the rally, the eldest Duggar child wrote that marriage should be between a man and a woman:
Arkansans should not face the threat of fines or being sued for living out the deeply-held convictions of their faith. We have the First Amendment in this nation, and we have the right to live out our faith. The rally will send a strong reminder to Arkansas Supreme Court Justices that an overwhelming majority of voters, 75 percent, voted to preserve marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
Whether the petition causes TLC to question continuing to give the family a platform or simply fizzles out, the attention it gives to LGBT causes is worth the effort, said The Bilerico Project's John Becker.
"[T]his story is definitely having an impact, because it's starting conversations about marriage equality in spaces that may still not be used to having those conversations yet, and it's exposing the Duggars' fans and social media followers — a good number of whom are social and religious conservatives — to images of loving, happily married same-sex couples, possibly for the first time," he told The Advocate. "The fact that so many of the responses were positive shows how quickly hearts and minds are changing on LGBT issues."