Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is standing by “19 Kids and Counting” star Josh Duggar, who issued an apology and resigned from his job on Thursday amid reports that he molested underage girls when he was a teenager.
“Janet and I want to affirm our support for the Duggar family,” Huckabee said in a statement Friday on behalf of himself and his wife. “Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable.’ He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story. Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things.”
The allegations against Duggar, now 27 years old, were first reported by In Touch magazine, which published a police report Thursday obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The report alleges multiple instances in which Duggar molested underage girls when he was a teen. It also states that Duggar’s father, Jim Bob Duggar, waited more than a year to contact police after his eldest son confessed to sexually molesting several female minors.
Josh Duggar has not directly addressed the allegations, but did say Thursday that he had “acted inexcusably” and was “extremely sorry.” Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar also acknowledged that their son “made some very bad mistakes.”
“Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives,” the couple said in a joint statement. “When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes, and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before.”
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, who are also from Arkansas, recently endorsed Huckabee for president after campaigning for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in 2012. A spokesman for Santorum did not immediately return msnbc’s request for comment.
Criticizing “today’s blood-thirsty media,” Huckabee said that “being a minor means that one’s judgement is not mature.”
“No one needs to defend Josh’s actions as a teenager, but 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,” Huckabee said.
The document published by In Touch, however, calls into question the “help” Huckabee claims that Duggar sought. In one portion, the report describes Jim Bob Duggar’s reluctance to send his son to a treatment program because one of the elders in his church said that “some of the programs for juveniles were finishing schools where juveniles learned how to offend from other offenders.” Jim Bob Duggar ended up finding “a Christian program in Little Rock” that he felt comfortable sending his son to, according to the report, but he could not remember the name. The elder Duggar said his son was in that program from March 17, 2003, until July 17, 2003, the police report states.
In a different portion of the document, however, Michelle Duggar tells police that the “training center” they sent their son to “was not really a training center” and that her son did not talk to a certified counselor while there.
“She said it was a guy they know in Little Rock that is remodeling a building,” the report states. “Det. Hignite asked if they guy was more of a mentor. She said kind of.”
Upon returning home in July 2003, the report states that Jim Bob Duggar and church elders took Josh Duggar to see a state trooper for a “very stern talk.” The trooper, however, did not charge Duggar with any crimes. And in a bizarre twist, In Touch reported that that same trooper, Cpl. Hutchins, is currently serving a 56-year prison sentence for child pornography.
The Duggars are politically active conservatives in addition to being deeply religious reality TV stars. Jim Bob Duggar was a state representative from 1999 until 2003, as well as a candidate for U.S. Senate. Before he resigned Thursday, Josh Duggar worked at the Washington D.C.-based Family Research Council, a conservative lobbying group that advocates for socially conservative policies and political candidates. Michelle Duggar has also built a reputation as an outspoken critic of civil rights protections for the LGBT community. Last year, she campaigned against a measure to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the city of Fayetteville, Arkansas, saying that the law would have put children in danger.
“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,” Duggar said in a robocall last August. “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.”
In a statement, TLC announced Friday that it had pulled all episodes of “19 Kids and Counting” from the air. “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,” TLC said.