In the past, zombies were defined as the living dead, soulless corpses. Now the term is also used for legislation, debts, and anything else that reappears after people thought the issues had been resolved. Controversy surrounding the Duggar family, particularly oldest son Josh, fits into that category. The family of “19 Kids and Counting” started publicly suffering in mid-May when the report about Josh sexually molesting five young girls—four of them his younger sisters—went viral. At that time, he was 14, and the youngest girl was under five. The tragedy was more scandalous because his father, Jim Bob, concealed the information from the police until he was no longer in the state legislature and then downplayed Josh’s behavior so much that Josh didn’t face arrest for his crime.
In 2004, the Duggar family began their TV notoriety with a program called “14 Kids and Pregnant Again.” Two years later, Josh was still molesting his sisters. The information was kept under wraps until May 19, 2015, when InTouch published an article about Josh’s crimes along with a police report detailing the abuse. The police report was destroyed, and Josh apologized. He also resigned from his job as a lobbyist for the extreme-conservative religious Family Research Council. Reruns of “19 Kids and Counting” were pulled after over 20 corporations pulled their advertising. Not until July 26, however, did the cable channel cancel the program. Since then, Josh’s activities, past and present, have been headlined on the Internet.
Josh’s life further unraveled after a hacker found the names of 37 million people signing up for the Ashley Madison site. He was the first celebrity to be outed from the release of the names. As a paying member of Ashley Madison, the social-networking site made to facilitate illicit extramarital affairs, he spent almost a thousand dollars on two different accounts between February, 2013, and May, 2015, including an “affair guarantee” fee of two hundred and fifty dollars. Josh had not one, but two, accounts with the site which showed an extensive list of his sexual preferences.
The Ashley Madison account wasn’t the first that Josh created. Over a decade ago, his Facebook profile used to hook up with women was allegedly under the alias “Joe Smithson.” He used a photo of Jonathan Blankfein, son of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, on that profile. The “Smithson” profile was also linked to a profile on OKCupid, “joesmithsonnwa,” until it was flagged by Gawker and deleted. That photo belongs to Hollywood DJ and producer named Matthew McCarthy who is losing jobs because at least one club thought he was linked to the Duggar scandal.
According to porn star Danica Dillon, Josh had sex with her twice while his wife was pregnant. Before InTouch published this information, Dillon passed a polygraph test in which she talked about his coming into the Gold Club in Philadelphia where she was stripping. Josh talked about what a fan he was of Dillon, even before her recent “boob job.” Dillon said that sex with him was “creepy,” that “he was manhandling me, basically tossing me around like I was a rag doll.” Although the sex was consensual, Dillon said, “It was very traumatic. I’ve had rough sex before, but this was terrifying.”
Satan originally got the blame for Josh’s actions, but the responsibility was moved over to Josh’s wife, Anna. The Duggars privately urged Anna to admit that “she should have been more aware of the pressures Josh was under, of the issues he was facing, and how she could have better counseled him or helped him,” according to an unnamed source. Divorce is not an option for Anna because their religion requires her to stay married to Josh forever.
Last week, Josh wrote, “I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have secretly over the last several years been viewing pornography on the internet and this became a secret addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife.” Later the reference to pornography was replaced by a reference to allowing “Satan to build a fortress” in his heart and then completely removed. There was no apology to the lives he damaged through his bigotry toward LGBT people and others who don’t follow his faith. Duggars’ world teaches that women’s improper attitude and dress are to blame for men’s inability to control their libidos.
Family dynamics show possible reasons for Josh’s behavior. Father Jim Bob teaches his sons to repress sexual desires, partly by not looking at attractive women. “Nike” is the code word for the boys to look at their shoes because, as the autobiography Growing Up Duggar states, God forbid that they like looking at women. Sources say that Jim Bob operates like a dictator, for example telling anyone seen kissing before marriage that they shouldn’t do it. Statistics indicate that conservatives, many of whom grow in fundamentalist Christian churches, watch more porn than anyone else. In the Duggars’ home, the father cannot be challenged, women are inferior to men, and using birth control is a sin.
Two unnamed members of the Duggar family are fed up with the way that Josh has gotten away with his sexual behavior. The solution to Josh’s problems was to send him back to the same fundamentalist Christians who supposedly rehabilitated him over a decade ago; even family members don’t believe in this solution. Why they have doubts is understandable: Pastor Paul Kingsbury, who runs the North Love Church facility, reportedly helped a man accused of sexual assault evade prosecution in the United States by keeping him in a mission in Bolivia. According to his protector, the man had fulfilled his penance by showing remorse and would protect him in “any way necessary” from facing charges in the United States.
The brother of Josh’s wife went much farther. Daniel Keller, infuriated by a post from Josh’s sister Jessa about Jesus cleansing Josh if he confesses, engaged in a back-and-forth Twitter exchange that pointed out the difference between confessing and getting caught, concluding with calling Josh a “pig.”
Losing their show cost the Duggars $25 million dollars. First they begged for money, and Michelle complained about having to do the housework. No comment about Jim Bob helping her with the housework. One of Michelle’s big rants came from having to fold laundry at 1:00 in the morning. Their next solution to financing their expensive lifestyle was to have a new show—counseling victims of sexual abuse. At the same time, they’re preparing a documentary, “Breaking the Silence,” featuring Jill and Jessa Duggar plus other sexual abuse victims to bring the issue further into the public eye. Beyond that, they plan a new series featuring themselves, parents who condoned sexual abuse, as sex abuse counselors. That from parents who never sought counseling for Josh’s victims.
If Josh were an ordinary person, leaving others to their lives, the news would not be important. But the family actively opposed a local ordinance to ban LGBT discrimination because they claim that LGBT people are a danger to children. The Duggars have always held themselves up as fine, upstanding Christians to be used as examples for all. After the show’s cancellation, parents Jim Bob and Michelle wrote that “our desire in opening our home to the world is to share Bible principles that are the answers for life’s problems.” Josh could not even take responsibility for his own actions but instead blamed his wife. His sisters, who were victims of his sexual molestation, tried to justify his actions.
As Josh’s sins become more openly known, the conservative world is either ignoring them or claiming that progressives are the hypocrites and that Josh isn’t because he has confessed. At the same time, they continue to pillory people who do not violate the law in the way that Josh has. And they want the United States to become a theocracy that would follow the Duggars’ teaching.