The television show 19 Kids And Counting was a runaway hit for TLC, running from 2008 to 2015. It featured what has become one of the most talked about and controversial families in American TV history, the Duggars, of whom there are a seemingly endless amount, all of whom have names starting with “J.” The fundamentalist Christian fanbase that sprung up around them was enormous, but underneath their quirky appearances as a deeply faithful Baptist Christian family who only let their homeschooled kids go on chaperoned dates, some pretty dark stuff was lurking.
The “dark stuff” in question was son Josh Duggar‘s 2015 admission that he was guilty of “acting inexcusably” towards several young women before his television fame started, including his sisters. For anyone who’s even vaguely aware of how the Catholic Church deals with abusers, you probably won’t be shocked to learn that Josh didn’t end up in jail for his offences, and after conferring with his local religious leader, felt that stepping away from the spotlight for a minute or two was just punishment.
After the blowback from Josh’s misdeeds 19 Kids And Counting was canceled, but a spinoff of the show, Counting On, still airs, with focus on the other Duggar kids. The Duggars still enjoy fairly high ratings and are essentially the mythological Hydra of reality TV: kick one off the air and another two will easily take their place. Turns out the Duggars have more to worry about then it first appears though, as there seems to be a tidy bushel of secrets waiting to upend their wholesome, old-fashioned apple cart.
15. The Duggar Kids Are A Great Source Of Free Labor
What were some of the chores you had to do as a kid? There are the obvious ones, like taking out the trash, cleaning the floors, doing laundry… Pretty normal, right? Let’s face the obvious here. When it comes to the Duggars, the strain of keeping 19 kids busy would have been like trying to wrangle a pack of rabid dingos on the best of days, but thankfully the Duggars had a way to pacify their homegrown mob.
What better way to teach your kids how to pinch a penny than by making their own laundry detergent from scratch? The kids also have to learn a musical instrument each, which brings to mind some kind of Partridge Family orchestra situation. Did they ever send them busking?
In the days before the Duggars were making serious coin as real estate agents and landlords (Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar started the family young), the family had to cut corners, so much of what’s in their house, from furniture on down, are Duggar family creations.
14. Josh Duggar May Get To Be A TV Star Again
Considering Josh Duggar is essentially the reason for 19 Kids And Counting being taken off the air in the first place, it’s a bit of a surprise that Josh, who had admitted to violating young girls including his own sisters, could someday be back on TLC as a reality TV star. His punishment? According to his family, Josh’s church put him on a three-month course consisting of physical labor and counselling.
Although his misconduct no doubt tarnished the Duggar’s reputation (and ratings), Josh wasn’t exactly disowned by the family afterward, and he has appeared at numerous family functions and holidays since the show was initially booted from the air.
13. Two Of The Duggar Daughters Are On A Very Questionable Website
This is not exactly what comes to mind when you think of that story about footprints on the beach and Jesus. For whatever reason the folks out in TV land seem to have a preoccupation with the Duggar’s feet, among other things.
Jill and Jessa Duggar both have profiles on Wikifeet, an online catalog of celeb feet. Admittedly, there’s not much that celebrities can do to prevent online weirdos from cataloging odd or compromising photos of them, but it’s still a bit jarring to consider.
This isn’t to say Jill and Jessa put the profiles up themselves, as their family is, outwardly at least, all about that purity and innocense-style PR, but they also aren’t demanding they be taken down, either. Hey, any publicity is good publicity, even if the people peeping on Duggar feet online are obvious already, uh, fans.
12. The Duggars Are Sort Of In A Cult
The Duggars flatly deny that they’re part of the Quiverfull movement, a fundamentalist Christian group who advocate for huge families and very old-school gender roles, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve been free of any outside influence whatsoever. Bill Gothard’s religious sect the Institute of Basic Life Principles was their cult (allegedly) of choice.
Or at least, it was until Dr. Gothard was forced to quit the group he founded, under a mountain of abuse and assault charges in 2014. The group requires its followers to adhere to a disciplined and strict fundamentalist Christian dogma and emphasizes chastity, virginity, and the usual laundry list of requirements.
A real “do as I say, not as I do” type of guy, Dr. Gothard’s Institute nonetheless holds sway over the Duggar family and many others, leading one to consider just what other weird ideas about parenting Jim Bob and Michelle might have picked up along the way, given that Dr. Gothard designed the homeschooling regimen the family follows.
11. Michelle And Jim Bob Gave Their Kids Romance Lessons
From Honey Boo Boo to the almost constantly drinking and disorderly cast of the Jersey Shore, reality TV has given us so, so many cringe-y moments over the years, but few could top this. Turns out that the Duggars are all about homeschooling their kids on everything, and that very much includes instructing their adult children how to properly kiss.
Jim Bob and Michelle, having what would appear to be a successful marriage by almost any metric (money in the bank, big house, enough kids to start a mercenary army), it makes sense that they’d have important advice to pass on.
But come on, I’m not sure what weird upbringing anyone reading this had, but in most circles teaching your children, in this case, a 22-year-0ld bride and her husband, to kiss is indicative of some kind of weird family dynamic that you’d think the Duggars would be more self-conscious about sharing with the world. But hey, cringe-worthy gets more ratings.
10. Josh Was A Catfisher And Physically Abusive
The oldest son of the Duggar clan, Josh seems to have a problem with his temper and respecting other people’s boundaries. He also had a problem staying faithful to his wife, as Josh’s name was one of many that came out when the popular dating (cheating) site Ashley Madison was hacked in 2015. Joel later admitted that he’d even catfished women on Facebook, often using the face of the son of a Goldman Sachs exec as a profile pic.
Josh checked himself into rehab after that information came out, but then later he was accused of soliciting and being rough with adult film Danica Dillon, who he’d allegedly paid repeatedly for intimate encounters that bordered on abuse. She sued him for $500,000 but had to drop the suit after Josh delivered proof that she had lied about there being any assault.
The final nail in the coffin for Joel’s reputation and TV career, at least for now, were of course the allegations made public about his abuse of young girls both outside and inside his family, although according to the Duggars, that “dark period” of their life just caused them to “seek God like never before.” Whatever you say, guys.
9. A Bunch Of Duggar Sisters Are Suing A Police Station
Considering that the allegations against Josh Duggar revealed that he had abused his sisters, it’s more than a little surprising that they’ve been so active in defending them. Perhaps it’s a case of circling the wagons for the greater good of the family.
The allegations first came to light in an issue of In Touch Weekly in 2015, the details of which were leaked by the Springdale police department, the story touching off a firestorm of debate around the Duggar family and the secrets they’d obviously been hiding for some time.
Jill, Jessa, Jinger, and Joy were the Duggar sisters who sued the department, alleging that they made their statements in 2006 when they were still underage so that the details of their testimony would only be given to child welfare and law enforcement if absolutely necessary. They do have a point, as it was highly illegal for law enforcement to release information as sensitive as Josh’s case to the public.
8. Restaurants Would Rather Jim Bob Stay Away
Imagine you’re a waitress, on your feet at the end of a 10-hour shift, and a family of 20+ walks in the front door, seemingly out of some clown car in the parking lot. Your first thought, “Why me?” would likely be followed with, “Hey, think of the tip, though.”
According to a local Italian restaurant though, not only would Jim Bob Duggar, a man with a net worth reported to be around three and a half million, tip only around 5% every time, he’d ask that the normal gratuity rate for large groups be waived for him. Benefits of celebrity?
No matter what they asked him, Jim Bob would shoot dirty looks at the wait staff, leave communicating with them to his wife, and he also reportedly weirded out other families in the restaurant with his tendency to sit and lecture his family during the entire meal. Jim Bob probably got a little something extra in his marinara sauce, to say the least.
7. Jessa Duggar Got Intimate At Her Wedding Reception
With her husband, of course. The Duggars might be a scandal-plagued house of disrepute at this point, but they’re still devout Christians, above all. Which makes it a tad unseemly that Jessa Duggar and her husband didn’t even wait until they got out of the building their reception was being held in before consummating their relationship.
This might not be a surprise, though. Given that the Duggars were basically forbidden to be alone in a room with a member of the opposite gender, any red-blooded but terminally-Christian kid would be literally bursting at the seams to finally get a taste of the married life.
Jessa and Ben immediately made like their extremely productive mom and dad, rushing into a private room after the ceremony. By the look on her sister Jinger’s face when she checked on them, it was rather obvious what they were up to in there.
6. Jill And Derick Weren’t Actually Doing God’s Work
Missionary work is an important part of some young Christian’s lives. The opportunity to give back to the world and spread the Gospel in a far-off land is held in great esteem even today in the church, so lying about doing it is probably a great way to start paving that road to hell, right?
Apparently, nobody gave Jill Duggar or her hubby Derick Dillard the memo. You’d think that a couple who apparently met as a result of their missionary work would know better than to try to cover up a failed trip to El Salvador, but in 2015 this is what they did, getting kicked out of missionary work there due to lack of qualifications.
Fans were justifiably angry, feeling like they just gave members of an already well-off family an all-expenses-paid vacation, but like many of the other Duggar controversies on this list, the negative attention rolled off Jill and Derick’s back, although they were forced to repay the funds they were given for their failed trip.
5. Jessa And Ben Also Got In On Scamming Fans
Maybe she didn’t learn from her sibling’s mistake, or maybe she plans on having 19 kids of her own and needs someone to foot the bill, but Jessa Duggar and her husband Ben Seewald have also been accused of scamming fans and experiencing a similar backlash for their shady dealings.
In September 2015 during in the leadup to Jessa and Ben’s wedding, they posted on the Duggar family blog that they were accepting gifts and donations in their “time of need,” which is admittedly kind of a weird thing to hear from television stars, albeit reality television ones.
Jessa and Ben removed the post after a pretty obvious response from their fanbase, who were wondering why they were being told to trek to Target and Wal-Mart to purchase gifts for a couple of C-list celebrities. Not a slick move, but then the Duggars don’t seem to have inherited a self-awareness gene from any branch of their family tree.
4. Derick Internet Harasses A Fellow TLC Star
TLC’s I Am Jazz premiered in 2015, and was another hit for the channel. It centers around transgender teen Jazz Jennings, her everyday life and efforts to transition. Enter Derick Dillard, who’s not so keen on potentially competing for a time slot with a show involving anything even remotely trans-related.
While, of course, the religious beliefs of individuals are their right to express providing that nobody’s getting abused or harassed in the process, Derick chose not to keep it classy, occasionally calling out Jazz’s choice to transition on social media, which has itself become our collective garbage chute for opinions on virtually anything.
It could all be for ratings, though. In the end, it probably benefits TLC if two of their prominent stars have a public Twitter spat, but from a distance it kind of looks like an adult bullying a teen about their life choices, but only because that’s exactly what it is.
3. Jill Duggar’s Parents Won’t Let Her Do Her Job
There are a few things a pregnant woman looks for in a midwife. They want someone capable, understanding, and of course, non-judgemental. Too bad that Jill Duggar, a midwife herself, is only allowed to work with women her family vets first.
That’s right; Jill’s not allowed to tend to unmarried pregnant women at her job. Which is basically the most helicopter parent thing that even happened, as it’s hard to imagine your mom or dad going to where you work and knocking your stapler into the trash can, but that’s basically Jill’s problem.
And of course, her parent’s complaint was made on religious grounds. A woman named Susanna Keller was slated to have Jill as a midwife, but due to the Duggar patriarch and matriarch’s intervention, Susanna had to go elsewhere. Jill was forbidden from even fraternizing with the unwed mother, let alone help her safely deliver one of those babies the Duggar parents seem so fond of. Kind of hypocritical.
2. The Duggars Have A Big Problem With Gay People
While they haven’t really come out and said openly that they aren’t fond of gay people, the Duggars being devout Baptists and some of their on-set behavior would indicate that they’re just a tiny, tiny bit homophobic. There was the time that the Duggars removed a picture of a gay couple kissing from their Facebook page after they’d asked for affectionate couple photos, for instance.
There is also the time when Michelle Duggar asked that a gay production assistant be removed from the crew of their show after she learned of his romantic preferences. Also, there is the fact that Michelle’s older sister Evelyn is a lesbian so she doesn’t get to appear on their TV show regularly.
Just a few little things like that could lead someone to think, oh, I don’t know, that the Duggars might have a giant problem with gay people. Probably not great for the ratings to come right out and say it, though. Given Derick’s history with Twitter, he’ll probably chime in at some point.
1. Jim Bob And Michelle Duggar Didn’t Spare The Rod
When it comes to disciplining your children, there’s a ton of child-rearing books and online resources parents can turn to for advice. There’s also, of course, the Good Book. Jim Bob and Michelle quite obviously chose the latter, and the Bible is not very, shall we say, “modern” when it comes to putting your kids in their place.
There were actually complaints made by Jim Bob and Michelle’s adult children about the way in which they literally were beaten with a rod as kids, which is not entirely surprising given that the Institute of Basic Life Principles are the group the family follows.
Among other things, the Institute believes that victims of abuse are responsible, at least in part for the abuse they suffer, so it’s fitting that the Duggars would resort to corporal punishment when it came to their kids, but it certainly doesn’t fit with their gentle, “Aw, shucks” veneer.
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