As advertisers bail, petitions abound and the media feasts on the story, the odds of TLC being able to bring back its hit series 19 Kids And Counting without Josh Duggar just got a lot slimmer with a new report that patriarch Jim Bob Duggar initially might not have told that Arkansas state trooper the whole story as to what Josh had been doing at home. But with such a large cast to work with, and a hit franchise at stake, TLC is mulling the efficacy of plucking popular newlyweds from the now-tarnished Duggar family setting and launching them in a show of their own, sources say.
It was just seven months ago that TLC managed to wipe the ick off its image caused by the sudden appearance of a convicted child molester into its Here Comes Honey Boo Boo off-camera storyline. The network accomplished that feat with a record-setting rating for a super-wholesome 19 Kids And Counting Duggar family wedding episode. Last October, a series-record average of 4.4 million people tuned in to see 19 Kids And Counting’s crazy-in-love virgins, Jill Duggar and Derick Dillard get hitched — and perform their very first kiss and first fully sanctioned frontal hug. TLC was the No. 1 cable network of the night in total viewers and among all key women demos (3 rating with women 25-54 and women 18-49). The episode was the network’s most-viewed telecast in four years. Not surprisingly, Jill and Derick are part of the spinoff being discussed.
Meanwhile, further dinging the mothership show’s squeaky-clean practically perfect family image, the 2006 Arkansas police report about their eventual investigation as to what had been going on at the Duggar home includes an interview with one then-underage family member, whose name was redacted, and who reported parents Jim Bob and Michelle “have a rod” they use on their children.
2-Night Oprah Winfrey Special Boosts Discovery; TLC Posts Its Highest-Rated Quarter Ever In Key Demos
The Arkansas state trooper who was first alerted to the child molestation allegations has contradicted Jim Bob’s account of how he handled the discovery his son had allegedly fondled several underage girls, including some of his sisters. In ’06, Jim Bob told Springdale police he had taken Josh to see State Trooper Joseph Hutchens, during which Josh “admitted to Hutchens what [he] had done.” This account was written up in the police report obtained by In Touch, through a Freedom of Information Act filing, before a judge ordered the police report destroyed.
Hutchens now says Jim Bob only told him about one such incident, not multiple incidents as is now being reported. Hutchens says the fact that he only was told about Josh touching one girl one time, through her clothing while she slept, factored into his decision not to report Josh to authorities. Josh Duggar allegedly molested several underage girls when he was 14 and 15 years old, though the claims were not reported to police until Josh was 18.
Hutchens was interviewed by a representative of a law firm, at the request of In Touch. Keep in mind, Hutchens is the guy now serving 56 years in prison for child pornography. Because Hutchens failed to report the allegations of abuse involving Josh Duggar, now 27, a police investigation conducted in 2006 wound up being halted because the statute of limitations had run out. “I have lost a lot of sleep over it. I am a Christian myself and I worry that something else may have happened, Hutchens told In Touch via the law firm rep. “The young girl should have been my first priority” he added which, under the circumstances, only sounds moderately creepy.
Last week, when In Touch lobbed its grenade into TLC’s money-making machinery, Jim Bob issued a statement with wife Michelle saying: “Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives. 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.” They said as a result of Josh’s “bad mistakes,” “each one of our family members drew closer to God.”
Meanwhile, the number of petitions on Change.org calling for TLC to cancel permanently, or save, its hit show is quickly approaching the number of children in the Duggar family. To be fair, some of those petitions pre-date publication of the police report outlining allegations against Josh.
Earlier petitions had called for TLC to boot the family after Michelle Duggar’s voice was heard on a political robocall urging residents of Fayetteville, Arkansas, to repeal a law protecting people from being fired or evicted based on gender identity. In the audio, she was heard suggesting trans people are “child predators,” according to press reports.
More recently, Josh Duggar was the executive director of the lobbying arm of the conservative Family Research Council, which says its “mission is to advance faith, family and freedom in public policy and the culture from a Christian worldview.” He abruptly resigned from that post last week, and said in a Facebook post that 12 years ago he “acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret” and that he “confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation.”
One newer petition asks signers to contact show advertisers to demand they walk away from the program. The petition names: Ace Hardware, Party City, Arm & Hammer, Progressive Insurance, Kohl’s, Choice Hotels, Firehouse Subs, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Pure Leaf Tea, Walgreen’s, Minute Maid, Payless Shoes, Sherwin Williams, among others. Already Choice Hotels and PayLess have tweeted statements saying they’ve decided to remove advertising from the show. General Mills and Walgreen say they’re out, too.
TLC, which has not yet decided on the long-term fate of the show, declined to comment about the show or a spinoff.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.