TLC's '19 Kids' Pulled For Sex-Abuse Scandal
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
"19 Kids And Counting" has been pulled from the air by TLC. The program centers on Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, an Arkansas couple who have 19 children. TLC sidelined the show after the couple's 27-year-old son issued a statement apologizing for wrongdoing amid media reports he's been investigated for fondling underage girls when he was himself an underage teenager. Now, this is the second time that TLC has had to remove a show from its air after one of its stars was caught up in a controversy involving child molestation. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans joins us. Eric, thanks so much for being with us.
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: I'm glad to be here.
SIMON: So TLC took this action after reports by In Touch magazine about Josh Duggar. How did the report lead up to this cancellation?
DEGGANS: Well, it's tough to know because TLC doesn't seem to be talking to the press on the record about this, but In Touch magazine found out about this through a police report that it got through a Freedom of Information Act request. And after the story was published, Josh Duggar, his wife, Anna, and his parents, Jim Bob and Michelle, each put statements on Facebook Thursday. Now, without admitting to specifics, Josh said, quote, "12 years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably." And he also said that he, quote, "confessed my wrongdoing to authorities." This happened just as TLC was airing a marathon of "19 Kids And Counting," which many of these episodes feature Josh. So by midafternoon Friday, the controversy was really heating up, and TLC wound up issuing a statement saying it was, quote, "deeply saddened and troubled by this heartbreaking situation" and that it was going to pull all episodes of the show from the air effective immediately.
SIMON: Now, the Duggars have become something of a symbol for a lot of Americans, haven't they?
DEGGANS: Yeah, that's true. They've been advocates on conservative issues in conservative politics. Josh Duggar resigned from a job at the conservative Christian lobbying group, the Family Research Council, after this came out. He had made a lot of appearances for the group advocating against the legalization of same-sex marriage. And the Duggar's family's Twitter feed has a lot of messages with those kind of messages on it. There's also been pieces on Salon.com and The New York Post accusing the family of hypocrisy. So all of this becomes a problem for TLC because they have to decide how they're going to deal with this in episodes. I mean, this isn't an actor in a fictional show.
SIMON: Yeah, you can't rewrite the script, yeah.
DEGGANS: Exactly, and part of the show's appeal has always been that this family has really strong moral values, so what do you do with a show that's centered on a family that's going through something this controversial?
SIMON: Now, Eric, last fall, TLC had to cancel "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" about the family in Georgia because there were reports that the matriarch of the family was dating a guy who'd served jail time for molesting one of her daughters. So how does this scandal affect TLC, which I believe used to be known as The Learning Channel?
DEGGANS: (Laughter) Yeah, it's a long time since they've been known as that.
As always, the question here is what did they know and when did they know it? In a statement that Josh's wife made, she said that he had told her about this a long time ago - years ago. So questions arise whether TLC knew about this family secret and allowed the Duggars to present the image they presented to the world anyway. Now, as a critic, I've always wondered if families that agree to do these shows really know what they're getting into. You know, like, how the press is really going to dig into lives. And I've always wondered if channels like TLC are just hoping to make as much money as they can before everything implodes. Now, I'm always an optimist, so I'm hoping this situation is going to teach channels like TLC to be more careful about the people that they turn into stars, and maybe this'll make families think twice before they open their lives to the lens of a reality TV camera.
SIMON: NPR's Eric Deggans, keep watching for us. Thanks so much.
DEGGANS: Always a pleasure.
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