Following in their parents’ footsteps, two Duggar sisters from TLC’s reality show “19 Kids and Counting” spoke out in defense of Josh Duggar, who is embroiled in a child molestation scandal following the release of police records from when he was a teenager.
In an interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly that aired Friday, Jessa Seewald and Jill Dillard, two of Josh’s younger sisters, acknowledged that they were “victims” of his inappropriate touching 12 years ago, but defended their brother against harsher accusations.
“Josh was a boy, a young boy in puberty, and a little too curious about girls,” Seewald said. “And that got him into some trouble. And he made some bad choices, but, really, the extent of it was mild — inappropriate touching on fully clothed victims, most of it while [the] girls were sleeping.”
The two also came down hard on InTouch Magazine and the media frenzy that’s followed in recent weeks.
“I see it as a re-victimization that’s a thousand times worse,” said Dillard, who was 12 at the time of Josh’s misconduct. “This is something that’s already dealt with. We’ve already moved on. It’s not the truth. Everything is distorted. We feel like our story is not being told. The victims are the only ones who can speak for themselves. Now it’s already being warped into however they want to portray it.”
The sisters blamed InTouch Magazine and its parent company, Bauer Publishing, for not taking their well-being into account, and called Bauer “a major porn provider.”
A 2013 investigation by TheWrap found that the German-based publisher’s European holdings included at least one magazine appealing to neo-Nazis, as well as significant involvement in the distribution of pornography, including Nazi-themed porn movies.
“Maybe they’re used to making objects out of women, and I guess they don’t think we’re any different,” Seewald said.
Reps for Bauer Publishing have not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment.
In the Fox News interview, Seewald and Dillard also defended the actions of their parents after Josh’s initial confessions. Rather than turning their son into authorities, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar sent Josh to live with a family friend who often counseled young men through difficult times.
Several years later, the Duggars brought Josh in to a local police station in Arkansas, at which point police referred the case to the Families in Need agency. The Department of Health and Human Services were brought in to investigate.
“When we did the DHHS investigation, they complimented my parents,” Dillard said. “As a mom, I hope that I can set up the same safeguards for my children like they did. Not only taking care of Josh, but us girls.”
The interview with the sisters took place on the same day that Kelly sat down with their parents.
On Wednesday’s broadcast, the Duggar parents also defended Josh against harsh labels like “pedophile,” as well as their own actions in the wake of his confessions that he had inappropriately touched five young girls, including sisters Jessa and Jill, while they were sleeping.
The comments by Dillard and Seewald echo the ones made previously by their parents.
“They’ve been victimized more by what’s happened in these past few weeks than they were 12 years ago,” Michelle said on Wednesday, asserting that most of Josh’s actions occurred when the girls were asleep and that they never fully understood what was happening.
Response to Kelly’s Wednesday interview has been severe and many have questioned the Duggar parents’ actions — and the fate of the family’s TV career remains an open question.
TLC has pulled all currently airing episodes of “19 Kids and Counting” from the air, but has not outright canceled the show. Advertisers including Walgreens, Payless and Choice Hotels have already pulled out of airing spots during the show.
For their part, Dillard and Seewald seemed ambivalent — despite the fact that their wedding episodes garnered some of the biggest ratings for TLC in the last year. “This show is just a window of opportunity, that God’s allowed our family to be on television and to share with other people our lives,” Dillard told Kelly.
Seewald added, “We’re not a TV family, we’re just a family that just happen to be on TV. And so, it was a window of opportunity.” There’s no telling how long that window may remain open.