'19 Kids' Parents to Fox News: "We Felt We're Failures"

Jim Bob Michelle Duggar - H 2015
Courtesy of TLC

Jim Bob Michelle Duggar - H 2015

The TLC reality stars discussed the history behind Josh Duggar's sexual molestation allegations in an interview with Megyn Kelly.

19 Kids and Counting parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar sat down with Fox News' Megyn Kelly on Wednesday for an exclusive Kelly File interview to discuss the sexual molestation allegations brought against their son Josh Duggar 13 years ago.

Jim Bob told Kelly that when Josh was 14, he went to his parents and told them he improperly touched two of his sisters over their clothing in both the vaginal and breast areas when they were sleeping. At the time, the Duggars had five daughters who shared two bedrooms.

"There was so much grief in our hearts. I think as parents we felt we’re failures, you know? Here we tried to raise our kids to — to do what’s right and know what’s right. And yet, one of our children made really bad choices, and I think as a parent we were just — we were devastated," Michelle said.

"He said he was just curious about girls," Jim Bob said.

Both Jim Bob and Michelle talked with their daughters about the molestation, but the parents said in the interview that none of the girls remembered being touched while sleeping. The parents first asked each of the girls what had happened, but none knew about Josh's actions; the parents disclosed Josh's touching to the girls after "some other things happened."

"We were in shock. We were trying to figure out what was the next step. Really, looking back, we did the best we could under the circumstances," Jim Bob told Kelly about first trying to deal with the issue "in-house." Following Josh's first admission, the parents talked with Josh, put punishments on him and watched him, including Jim Bob taking him to his work.

Jim Bob said that Josh came to them two more times and admitted that he had touched other girls (another victim was the family's babysitter).

"We were just devastated," Jim Bob said. "After that third time he came to us is where we really felt like, 'You know what, we've done everything we can as parents to handle this in-house. We need to get help.'

"At that point we pulled Josh out of the home," Jim Bob continued. Josh went to live with a family friend (his first time living away from home), where he did construction work and was counseled by his host.

"We felt from going from a perspective of really reaching his heart first would be important, and so that's the reason we sent him down to Little Rock to work with this man," Jim Bob said about not reporting Josh to police as the first action. "We got him out of the home and sent him down to this place, and that really was the best decision we've made through this whole process. … God really worked in his life. … He asked God to forgive him, he went back and asked those he offended to forgive him.

"We talked to our daughters about wrong or right touch," Jim Bob said. "We wouldn't have known about any of these things unless he told us."

After Josh was sent to Little Rock, the parents set up "safeguards" and "boundaries" in the home, including not allowing girls to sit on any male's lap unless it was Jim Bob's, not allowing men to babysit, or girls being in a room alone with a male. "We were trying to protect and watch and make sure that their hearts were safe," Michelle said. 

Both Josh and his sisters each received professional counseling (Michelle said Josh paid for the counseling himself). The parents said that counseling was "the turning point of his life."

When Josh returned from Little Rock, his parents felt the last and final step to make things right was for Josh was to confess to authorities what he had done. Jim Bob went to Arkansas State Police headquarters with Josh and a family friend who served as a witness, and the oldest son confessed to everything he did. "'If you continue down this path you could destroy your life and end up in prison,'" Michelle said the officer, who is now serving 56 years in prison for child pornography charges, told Josh during his confession. The same officer recently told InTouch that Jim Bob and Josh only confessed one incident to him, not three.

In 2008, the reality show hit the airwaves. Kelly asked the parents why they would choose to do the program knowning Josh's secret. "We had nothing to hide. We had taken care of that all years before," Jim Bob said. "We had no fear because everything was taken care of."

Authorities told the Duggars that everything was sealed and the report could not be publicized, but when news of the leaked report surfaced in May, the family was shocked and disheartened.

"Every victim should have the right to tell their story, not a tabloid," Jim Bob said of the leaked news. 

"There's an agenda and there's people who are purposing to bring things out and hurt and slander," Michelle said of the increased media coverage.

Kelly inquired about what the future of the family show is: "We are fine whether they film us or not," Jim Bob said. "At this point, our family is trying to regroup from these attacks."

Both Jim Bob and Michelle shared their disappointment in the police department for not protecting the records of juveniles, and are now in talks with attorneys about suing because of the leaked reports.

"In our hearts before God, we haven't been keeping secrets," Michelle said. "In this, one thing I know is that God is going to use all of this for good."

Josh's sisters Jessa Seewald and Jill Dillard also were interviewed for the first time about the incident, but likewise focused on the leaked reports.

"We're victims. They can't do this to us," Jill said, wiping away tears.

Jessa followed: "The system that was set up to protect kids, both those who make stupid mistakes or have problems like this in their life and the ones that are affected by those choices, it's greatly failed."

Kelly's interview is the first time the Duggar parents have spoken publicly since releasing Facebook statements on May 21, together with Josh and his wife, Anna Duggar, about their son's molestation allegations. According to a 2006 police report published by InTouch, Josh sexually molested five girls as far back as 2002, including his sisters, but was never charged.

"Twelve years ago, as a young teenager I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret," Josh said in a statement immediately following the release of the report. "I hurt others, including my family and close friends. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing.

"My parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling," he continued. "I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life. I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption."

Shortly after news of Josh's crimes surfaced, the married 27-year-old father of three announced he was resigning his position as a lobbyist with the Family Research Council (FRC).

TLC was "deeply saddened" to learn about the incidents and pulled all scheduled episodes of 19 Kids from the air the day after the news broke. Despite 19 Kids losing more than half a dozen advertisers, including CVS Pharmacy, Ace Hardware, ConAgra Foods, Pure Leaf Iced Tea, Behr Paint, Ricola and Party City, and being pulled from Hulu, Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins left the door open for the family program to return to the streaming service.

More of Jessa and Jill's sit-down interview will air Friday, June 5, at 9 p.m. ET on The Kelly File.

Watch the portions of Kelly's interview with the Duggars that aired on Fox News on Wednesday.