During part one of an interview with Fox News' Megyn Kelly that aired on June 3, Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar confirmed that their eldest child, Josh Duggar, molested five girls, four of whom were his younger sisters and one of whom was a family babysitter, when he was a teenager. According to the Duggars, Josh, now 27, fondled two of his sisters' breasts while they were sleeping over their clothing. He had just turned 14 at the time.
"I think as parents, we felt, We're failures," Michelle said during the interview. "Here we've tried to raise our kids to do what's right and to know what's right, and yet one of our children made some really bad choices."
Jim Bob called it "one of the most darkest times that our family's ever gone through."
Both parents said their daughters were unaware of what had happened, but Josh came to tell them what he had done. "He said he was just curious about girls and he had gone in and just basically touched them over their clothes while they were asleep," Jim Bob said. "They didn't know he had done it."
As a solution, the Duggars instituted what they called "safeguards" to deal with the matter within the home. The "safeguards" were never explicitly explained during the interview. "We did the best we could under the circumstances," Jim Bob said. "We talked to him, we put all kinds of punishments on him, we watched him, like, all the time, I took him to work with me and I mean… We just poured our life into him."
Michelle added that they implemented new rules in the house that prevented the boys from babysitting, didn't allow a boy and a girl to play hide-and-seek together, forbid boys and girls from being alone in a room together, and didn't allow young daughters to sit on their older brothers' laps.
On two different occasions over the next year, Josh told his parents he touched his sisters, some of whom were asleep on the couch and some of whom were awake. "This was not rape or anything like that," Jim Bob said. "This was like, touching somebody over their clothes. There were a couple instances where 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."
After the third incident, the Duggars decided to send Josh to "a man who mentored young men ... who had made unwise choices in their lives" in Little Rock, Arkansas. Josh had just turned 15 when he left home for the first time. "He went and asked God to forgive him, he went back and asked those that he had offended to forgive him," Jim Bob remembered. "That was the turning point in his life and this man really reached his heart." Josh also called the babysitter to ask "for forgiveness and she didn't know that he had done anything either," according to Jim Bob.
When Kelly asked, the Duggars confirmed the Little Rock man was not a certified counselor. Jim Bob said he looked into a juvenile facility for sex offenders, but found that "the success rate was not good."
While he was gone, Michelle recalled telling her young daughter, "'You know, Josh has done some very bad things and he's very sorry,'" she said through tears.
When Josh returned from Little Rock, his parents took him to the police station to disclose what he had done. It had been 16 months since the Duggars initially found out what Josh was doing, and at that point, "all of [the Duggar] children received professional counseling, including Josh, who paid for his counseling himself," Michelle said.
"We felt like the last step was to make things right with the law. Because he'd broken the law. So we took him down to the local police station, the closest one to our house, it was Arkansas State Police Headquarters, and walked in and talked to a man there," Jim Bob said. "We felt like if we didn't do this, it'd be something hanging over his head for the rest of his life."
Jim Bob said they took a family friend as a witness to the police station, where Josh told them "everything." The Duggar patriarch also disputed claims that they personally knew the officer who took Josh's statement. (That officer was later charged with possession of child pornography and sentenced to 56 years in prison.) Jim Bob said he didn't view Josh as a threat "at all" after he went to police, calling Josh "a changed person."
The Duggars described weeks and months going by without hearing anything from the police department, not knowing if their son would be arrested or if their family would be investigated. But just before the family was scheduled to appear on The Oprah Show in 2006, an anonymous letter was faxed to Harpo Productions warning the studio of the allegations against Josh. "You need to know the truth," it read. "They are not what they seem to be." The appearance was canceled, and Harpo faxed the tip to the authorities, who then began a formal investigation into Josh. The five alleged victims were also interviewed. But since the three-year statute of limitations had run out, no charges were brought.
The Duggars said they are most upset that a juvenile record was illegally released and they're hoping to use this to fight for juvenile rights. "The big picture is protecting juveniles' records," Jim Bob said. He also added that the family has been speaking with attorneys about the illegally released records.
The Duggars said they felt the police chief, Kathy O'Kelley, might've been targeting them. Jim Bob recalled seeing O'Kelley a few months ago, saying she was planning on retiring but had a few things she wanted to do first. Jim Bob alluded to Kelly that he believes exposing this report was one of the things on her list. "There's an agenda," Michelle added. "And there's people that are purposing to try to bring things out and twisting them to hurt and slander."
She also said that their daughters have been more harmed by the release of these records than by what their brother did to them. "They've been victimized more by what has happened in these last couple weeks than they were 12 years ago," she said, "because they honestly didn't even understand or know anything had happened."
"At this point," Jim Bob said, "our family is just trying to regroup from these attacks. It's been an unprecedented attack on our family. I wonder why all this press isn't going after the release of these juvenile records. Hopefully justice will be served on the ones that released juvenile records to protect other juveniles."
When Kelly challenged Michelle about her recently revealed thoughts on the trans community, Jim Bob wanted to make clear that Michelle was referring to trans people as "pedophiles," not "child molesters." "Actually a pedophile is an adult that preys on children — Joshua was actually 14 and had just turned 15 when he did what he did," he said. "And I think the legal definition is 16 and up for being an adult preying on a child. So he was a child preying on a child."
In the second part of the interview, which airs Friday, Jessa and Jill Duggar talk to Kelly about being molested by their brother Josh as children. "We're victims," Jill says in a preview for part two. "They can't do this to us."
When asked by Kelly whether she sees herself as a victim, Jessa says her brother was "very wrong" but that she forgives him: "I do want to speak up in his defense against people who are calling him a child molester or a pedophile or a rapist, some people are saying. I'm like, that is so overboard and a lie really. I mean, people get mad at me for saying that, but I can say this because I was one of the victims."
In Touch broke the story earlier this month that Josh, now 27, was accused of molesting five girls when he was 14. It was reported that some of those girls were his younger sisters, but none of the victims had been publicly identified before Wednesday.
The Fox News interview comes shortly after a second police report from the incident was released by In Touch on Wednesday.
Jim Bob and Michelle, Josh, and his wife, Anna Duggar, all released separate statements after the scandal broke, but had not elaborated on the matter publicly. The family appears together on the TLC show 19 Kids and Counting, which the network pulled from the air last month.
After the reports emerged, Josh resigned from his position at the Family Research Council.
But if this is end of the Duggars' reality show run, they're OK with that. "We are fine, whether they film us or not," Jim Bob said. "Either way we're at peace," Michelle concluded.