Janet Mefferd is a highly-respected, nationally syndicated, Christian conservative, radio talk show host. Like her, I came away concerned for the interview Megyn Kelly (who I like and appreciate) did of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar on June 3. I’ve posted Mefferd’s “Questions, questions: What I would have asked the Duggars” below. You can listen to Kelly's interview here.
I also came away concerned for many of the answers provided to Kelly by the Duggars. Here is but one example (I can’t take time for more).
In her introduction, Kelly pointed out the following about the start of “national notoriety” for the Duggars. She was referring to their first TV Special in 2004.
KELLY: The family first rose to prominence in Arkansas where in the late 1990s and early 2000s Jim Bob Duggar served in the state’s House of Representatives. But it was in 2004 that the Duggars gained national notoriety.
Later, Kelly asked Jim Bob Duggar the following question about whether it was a good idea to start the TV series called “19 Children and Counting” in 2008. It was the wrong question. She should have asked about the TV Special called “14 Kids and Pregnant” in 2004
KELLY: But are you thinking at all, wait, this [the TV series] might not be a good idea because when you bring cameras into your home, they tend to discover things and people get more interested in you.
J.B. DUGGAR: We had nothing to hide. We had taken care of all that years before. And when they asked us to do the reality TV show, all of this had been taken care of five years before and we had a clean bill of health from the state.
First of all, the state did not give the Duggars a “clean bill of health.” Detectives investigating Josh Duggar in 2006 wrote up an offense report accusing him of forcible fondling and second degree sexual assault.
Second, Josh Duggar was molesting girls in 2003 and soon after his father was making preparations to do a TV Special that aired in 2004. If Kelly had asked him the right question, Jim Bob could never have answered, “All of this had been taken care of five years before.”
He was able to give a deceptive answer because the wrong question was asked. Josh was removed from the home for four months because of his molestations. He returned in July 2003. I would have asked, “Jim Bob, how soon after Josh moved back home, did you start discussing a TV Special with film producers?”
Then this follow up, “Do you think it was a good idea to bring cameras into your home knowing Josh molested your daughters just last year? How could you justify highlighting your family under those circumstances and making a TV Special your focus?”
And then, “Why didn’t you tell the film company about Josh’s molestations? Isn’t that something you would want to know about if you were in their shoes? Were you concerned they might not produce the TV Special if they knew the truth about Josh?”
And finally, “The promotion for your TV Special claimed, ‘This incredible family works as a team to ensure a happy, healthy and balanced life for each member.’ How did Josh ensure a happy, healthy and balanced life for each of his four sister who were victims? And was everyone really enjoying a happy, healthy and balanced life? Recently, you called it a ‘dark,’ ‘most difficult’ and ‘terrible’ time. Weren’t you presenting a false narrative in 2004 as promotion for the TV Special? Please explain the discrepancy.”
Here’s some of what I recently wrote on a previous post.
“One of the reasons, I posted this article [“A timeline of the molestation allegations against Josh Duggar” by the Washington Post] was to show how soon after the alleged molestation of five girls including four sisters, the father, Jim Bob, started promoting his family on TV specials as a model of virtue attributable to their parenting practices. That lacked a tremendous degree of humility and integrity.”
“At that point, the elders in Jim Bob’s church should have stopped him and redirected his attention to the care and protection of his family – not its promotion. … The family was in deep trouble and their parenting had not produced as advertised. These were not ordinary family problems. Things were seriously wrong. It was time to refocus and reevaluate, not build a family empire.”
“Instead, Jim Bob created a brand in conjunction with the company that did not correlate with reality. It was encapsulated in the sentence, “Get an unprecedented look at how this incredible family works as a team to insure a happy, healthy and balanced life for each member.”
“The Duggar’s are a family franchise. There is tremendous pressure to put forward a superior “family life” product. It is the key to their fame, and honestly, their fortune. With the marketing of that product comes tremendous temptation to pretend righteousness and cover up unrighteousness.”
The Lord have mercy on the Duggars but I don’t think they are being truthful in some respects. There are too many minimizations, contradictions and misrepresentations. I know the liberal press will take advantage of the situation but that is no excuse for the conservative press or evangelical Christians to go soft.
Furthermore, we can’t reject out of hand the investigative reporting of the liberal press. For instance, yesterday, In Touch magazine posted Duggar Interview: 7 Crucial Facts They Didn’t Tell You – the Cover Up Continues. They asked some excellent questions and made some excellent points.
Here are the questions Janet Mefferd would have asked. I hope the Duggars go on her show.
I don’t know what you were doing last night, but I was yelling at my TV.
I wasn’t literally yelling. But I was frustrated, and I did erupt in a few, rather loud “WHAT?!”s and a bonus round of several “You’ve GOT to be kidding me!”s. This is often what happens when I tune in to softball TV interviews, which is why I usually avoid them. And if ever I’ve seen a softball TV interview, it was last night’s sit-down between Fox News’ Megyn Kelly and the Duggar parents, Jim Bob and Michelle.
It is not for nothing that there is a lot of controversy surrounding Josh Duggar’s admitted molestation of five young girls, including his sisters, since this famously clean-living Christian family is accused of covering up the sexual abuse for years and skirting the full legal consequences for their son. Did they do it for the considerable cash they were sure to earn through their reality TV show? Were they aware that the molestations were crimes under the law, or did they honestly believe they were just “mistakes?” Furthermore, what about the Duggar statements that don’t totally align with what’s in the police reports?
There are a lot of tough questions that need to be posed to the Duggars. Unfortunately, Megyn Kelly didn’t really pose them (at least the ones I think she should have asked). So today, I reviewed a lot of the material in the police reports and the news stories, deliberately avoiding other people’s blogs and commentaries. I simply asked myself, “If given the chance to interview the Duggars after Megyn Kelly, what would I have asked them?”
I always compile long lists of questions before I ever interview anybody. But this one is, admittedly, longer than most. I apologize for that, but I think each question is important. Here they are:
- You both have used a number of terms to describe what Josh did to these five girls, including the phrases “mistakes” and “wrong choices.” These are terms usually reserved for fairly innocuous errors. Do you believe the sexual molestations Josh committed against these five girls were simply errors, rather than crimes? If not, why use such language to refer to what Josh admittedly did?
- It took you three reported incidents to get outside “help,” as you call it, to deal with the molestation of these five girls. You say this is because you’d heard the success rate for rehab wasn’t very good. But why would fear of the effectiveness of rehab preclude you from going to police after the first reported incident?
- Jim Bob, you admitted during the interview that the first two molestation victims were not awake but the subsequent victims were fully awake. Yet you said right after that, “none of the victims really knew about (the abuse) or understood what he had done until we told them.” How can both of those assertions be simultaneously true – that some were awake, and yet none of them knew what Josh had done? What exactly does that mean?
- You said that Josh called the babysitter he claims to have fondled and asked for her forgiveness. Did you ever talk directly to the babysitter’s parents after Josh molested her? What was their reaction to the abuse? Did they have any alternative opinion on how the abuse should be handled, legally?
- Knowing that Josh had sexually molested some of your daughters before, how was it that Josh was allowed to have a girl sit on his lap, a girl he claims to have molested? Where were you both physically located at that exact moment?
- After Josh’s first report to you, did you ever leave him alone with any of your daughters?
- After Josh’s first report to you, did you ever allow him to babysit for any of your daughters?
- Jim Bob, you have claimed that before you went to the Arkansas State Police, you “didn’t know anything about (Cpl. Joseph Hutchens) besides that he was an officer there at headquarters.” However, in the police report, Darrell Hignite reports the following: “I asked the Duggars if any of this had ever been reported to the police. James said that he had spoken to a state trooper after (Josh) had returned from the program in Little Rock. James said that he knew Col. Hutchins (sic) with the Arkansas State Police. James said that he knew Hutchins because he used to be a car dealer and Cpl. Hutchins was the State Trooper who inspected car dealers.” How do those two different accounts fit together? Did you have any direct conversations with Cpl. Hutchens about Josh’s crimes prior to physically going into state police headquarters and reporting those crimes to him in an official capacity?
- Exactly how much contact did you have with Cpl. Hutchens prior to reporting Josh’s crimes? What was the nature and frequency of your contact with him?
- When Cpl. Hutchens, as you reported, told you that a treatment program was enough for Josh, did you object in any way?
- What did Cpl. Hutchens specifically indicate to you about a police report? Did he ever tell you directly that he would not be writing up a report?
- If not, did you ask him for a copy of the police report at that time, or in the weeks following your visit there?
- You say “a few weeks went by, a few months went by” while you were waiting to hear from the police. Did you ever return to the headquarters or call to inquire about the status of the case? If not, why not?
- Cpl. Hutchens has subsequently claimed that you lied to him about the severity of Josh’s sexual-assault crimes when you came to him to discuss the situation, and that he would have made an official report had he known more about what happened. What do you say to that?
- You have stated that you do not believe Josh is a pedophile, due to his age. However, the Springdale police report references a “state class” under Offense No. 1 as sexual assault in the 2nd degree. According to Title 5 of the Arkansas Code, a minor can be charged with 2nd degree sexual assault if he “engages in sexual contact with another person who is less than 14 years of age; and not the person’s spouse.” The statute also states that the minor does not have an “affirmative defense to a prosecution” if the minor was more than three years older than the victim, and the victim is less than 12 years of age; or four years older than the victim if the victim is 12 years of age or older. At any time, was Josh potentially facing charges of 2nd degree sexual assault?
- Is it true, as has been reported, that Josh attempted to sue the Arkansas Department of Human Services after his crimes were investigated? If so, why?
- You also have said in this interview that in the first abuse incidents, the victims “weren’t even aware.” Yet Michelle, you have said that when you went to the police department, your children “poured out their hearts. They shared everything.” Who shared everything? Just the final two victims? Or all the girls? And if it was all the girls, how could they pour out their hearts about incidents you and your husband say they weren’t aware of?
- Jim Bob, you have said that “parents are not mandatory reporters” when it comes to sexual abuse of children. However, the December 2006 police report notes – and it is widely known publicly – that your children are educated at home. Under Arkansas law, teachers are required to report suspected child maltreatment, including sexual abuse. Would your role as teacher PLUS parent not effectively broaden your own personal responsibility to bring any child maltreatment issues to the attention of authorities immediately?
- Who was this family friend of yours who described Josh’s molestations in a letter that was put inside a book and later discovered? Was the letter inaccurate in any way? Did you see it? Did you have subsequent conversations about it with this family friend?
- An unidentified female contacted Oprah Winfrey’s production company in 2006 and tipped them off to Josh’s incidents of sexual abuse. What, if anything, did Harpo Studios communicate to you directly about that tip at that time or afterward?
- Your family has been very involved in what is called the Biblical Patriarchy movement, and yet that movement has been tarred in the last several years by sex scandals. You have associated with Bill Gothard, founder of the Christian nonprofit Institute for Basic Life Principles, who resigned last year after allegations of rampant sexual harassment. Doug Phillips, founder of Vision Forum, has been another close friend of yours. Phillips, too, was felled by a sex scandal – an “inappropriate relationship” with a younger women not his wife that resulted in his stepping down in 2013. This was an organization, Michelle, that named you “Mother of the Year” in 2010. Why do think we are seeing so many major sex scandals coming out of the Biblical Patriarchy movement?
- In one lesson from Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute, called “Lessons from Moral Failures in a Family,” there is a hypothetical scenario described, in which “an older brother was guilty of sexually abusing younger ones in his family.” When the brother repents, one of the questions he is asked is this: “What factors in the home contributed to immodesty and temptation?” How do you react to that question?
- Do you believe there can ever be a case in which responsibility for sexual abuse can ever be laid at the feet of a victim? Do you believe any of the five girls Josh admits to molesting bear any kind of responsibility for their abuse? Or do you believe he bears full responsibility for it?
- Do you see the Biblical Patriarchy movement as having negatively impacted your family dynamics in any way? If so, how?
- You noted that after Josh fondled your daughters, apparently in their beds, and then fondled girls on a couch, you talked to other parents and noted “a lot of families have said that they’ve had similar things happen in their families.” Were these families all homeschooling families? Did it strike you as at all odd that molestations seemed to be common in your circles? What did you make of it?
- Based on your conversations with these families, were you led to believe that sexual abuse is common, and so perhaps it should not draw undue alarm? In other words, could that information in any way have contributed to you downplaying Josh’s abuse of the five girls, as many have charged?
- Do you continue to have any contact with Bill Gothard, either on the phone, in writing or in person?
- It has been reported that your family still follows the teaching plans of Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute. Is that true or false?
- Romans 13 talks about Christians needing to submit to the governing authorities. What responsibility do you believe you have to submit to the governing authorities when it comes to the commission of crimes and the breaking of the civil law?
- Can you think of any biblical reasons for not reporting sexual abuse to police as soon as it occurs?
- You talk about Josh being forgiven by God. Do you believe that forgiveness from God precludes civil punishment for a teenaged boy who sexually molests young girls, especially given the Arkansas statute on 2nd degree sexual assault and minors?
- If not, what do you believe is a proper civil punishment for a teenaged boy who sexually molests girls as young as 5?
- How was it that after the first sexual-abuse incident Josh committed, there were others? How was that even possible, given that you said you had put in safeguards?
- Do you believe sexually fondling a young girl without her consent is only sexual abuse if the victim is fully awake?
- Jim Bob, you said you “had nothing to hide” because “all this was taken care of in 2002-2003,” and that was why you didn’t hesitate to launch your reality TV show. Michelle, you have said, “In our hearts before God, we haven’t been keeping secrets.” Did you disclose the incidents to TLC, prior to launching your reality TV show? Was anyone at TLC aware of the molestations prior to May 2015?
- You refer to an agenda that has twisted things to “hurt and slander.” What is the slander that people have committed against you?
- Michelle, you’ve said your girls “have been victimized more by what has happened in these last couple weeks than they were 12 years ago.” Are you really saying that media reports about the sexual abuse have been worse than the sexual-abuse incidents themselves?
- Michelle, you say: “We have been protecting those that, honestly, should be protected,” referring to the girls. Do you also believe you protected Josh in the process?
- Jim Bob, you say, “When they asked us to do the reality TV show, all of this had been taken care of five years before, and we had a clean bill of health from the state.” What exactly do you mean by “a clean bill of health from the state?”
- Jim Bob, you say, “Our son violated God’s principles from doing some improper touching.” Did he not also violate the law, the trust of the public and the innocence of those five young girls?
- In light of Josh’s past, did either of you ever advise him against taking that highly visible political job with the Family Research Council? Did you ever discuss the possibility that your family could face even more public scrutiny if Josh decided to serve in that role?
- Jim Bob, you say, “the big picture is protecting juveniles’ records.” While that certainly is an important point, it would seem to many that the bigger picture is what happened to those five girls and whether or not your subsequent actions were appropriate. Why is “the big picture” the protecting of juveniles’ records, in your mind, rather than the abuse of those five girls?
- If a 14-year-old boy you did not know had molested your 5-year-old, how would you have handled it? Would you have reported the stranger to police, or would you have let his parents handle it in-house?