The untold truth of 19 Kids and Counting

If you haven't heard of the massive (and growing) Duggar Family, then you might be a pop culture novice. This giant family was the star of one of TLC's most popular shows of all time: 19 Kids and Counting, from 2008 to 2015. Dad, Jim Bob Duggar, and his longtime wife, Michelle Duggar, are members of an ultra-religious and politically conservative community that values modesty, obeying the patriarch as head of a family, and above all else, having lots and lots of children. The family has been widely questioned in the media for their anti-gay, conservative "values voter" views.

But even before their many family scandals became public, millions of viewers tuned in every week to see the inner workings of their super sized family life. Popular episodes have included details about how in the world the Duggars manage to do laundry, dishes, and cook for that many people. And what about bathroom privacy (answer: they have nine bathrooms and seven showers in their 7000 square foot house). Want to know more about Jim Bob, Michelle, Joshua, Jana, John-David, Jill, Jessa, Jinger, Joseph, Josiah, Joy-Anna, Jedidiah, Jeremiah, Jason, James, Justin, Jackson, Johannah, Jennifer, Jordyn-Grace and Josie? Follow along if you're intrigued, and we'll give you the rundown on the untold truth of 19 Kids and Counting

The family and show were rocked by sex abuse scandal

In May, 2015 In Touch broke the story that the eldest boy, Joshua Duggar, had been investigated for (and admitted to) molesting five underage girls when he was a teenager. More than one of the girls were reportedly his sisters. In Touch was able to access a hidden police report from 2006 via a Freedom of Information Act request that detailed the incidents, including police interviews with the two parents, but not with Josh himself. The abuses would likely never have come to light if, according to interviews, a family friend who was in the know hadn't written notes about Josh's actions, stashed them in a book, and then forgetfully lent the book to a friend who discovered the letter and notified police in 2006 (you can't make this stuff up).

The family and certain members of their religious community knew about the attacks that occurred from 2002-2003, but did not immediately alert authorities. The report notes that rather than be tried by law enforcement, Jim Bob instead "met with the elders of [his] church and told them what was going on." Josh was reportedly sent to a "Christian Program" where he would supposedly undergo "hard physical work and counseling." However, as was also uncovered in the police reports, Michelle Duggar later admitted to police that he had merely been sent to stay with a family friend to help him with his construction business. The documents also revealed that Jim Bob blocked police requests to interview Josh. Although the investigation had to be abandoned due to the statute of limitations, Josh, the Duggar family, and TLC became the focus of a media frenzy. Josh and his family were widely criticized for the circumstances of the crimes, their handling of the crimes, and their perceived hypocrisy in the face of their extensive and controversial "family values activism."

The show was canceled during its highest rated season

Amid all the pressure coming from the public and from other media outlets, in July 2015, TLC announced that it would no longer air 19 Kids and Counting. In their press release statement the network stated they were "especially concerned for the victims in this situation, including the Duggar family." In light of criticism that the network continued to air new episodes of 19 Kids and Counting for over a year after the scandal was unearthed, and was seemingly using the molestation case as a ratings booster, TLC worked with "victims' rights and advocacy organizations" to produce a 60 minute documentary about victims of abuse. However, since this documentary also starred the Duggars, it did little to squelch negative public judgement.

Josh had a porn addiction and a secret account on an "infidelity" website

In another shocking development a few weeks later, Gawker, the former flagship publication of heavy-hitter Gawker Media, broke the story that in a massive hack of AshleyMadison.com, the notorious extramarital affair hookup website, Josh Duggar's name and address was publicly associated with two separate monthly "affair guaranteed" level accounts, for which he had so far paid "a total of $986.76." Josh, who had proposed to his wife on an episode of 19 Kids and Counting, remained mum for a few weeks, and then posted a public apology on his mother Michelle's popular blog.

His apology included the following statement: "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."

The kids are homeschooled with an... interesting curriculum

Get ready to a) get some insight into the questionable reason the Duggar parents treated Josh's molestation crimes the way they did and b) feel extremely creeped out. It's common knowledge that the Duggars have long chosen to home school their kids. But did you know that the Christian curriculum they follow has its own share of sexual abuse scandals?

Gawker (which we're pretty sure is the Duggars' least favorite publication) reported in 2015 that the family adheres to a home schooling program from the Advanced Training Institute, which is "a Bible-based homeschooling program run by alleged cult figurehead Bill Gothard." Gothard himself has been accused of a slew of improper sexual advances on young girls, but that's not where the creepiness ends. The curriculum itself has an entire section on what to do when an older male child sexually abuses a younger child of the same family (!).

Another Gawker article reported on one such "lesson," which guides parents on what to do if they discover that "an older brother was guilty of sexually abusing younger ones in his family." When the older brother had "repented," he's asked a series of questions — including "What teaching could have been given to each child [emphasis ours] to resist evil?" and "What factors in the home contributed to immodesty and temptation?" The similarities are eerie, no?

They have been associated with the controversial Quiverfull movement

While the family's belief system appears to match up exactly with the controversial "Quiverfull" movement of Christianity, which has ties with the Duggars' ministry, the family has stated that they do not consider themselves as part of that group. The Quiverfull name comes from Psalm 127 which compares one's children to an archer's quiver full of arrows. The extremely conservative and religious group believes it's a woman's duty to produce as many children as possible while in their childbearing years. Nancy Campbell, a representative of the Quiverfull movement has publicly stated the group's belief that they are building an army for God. In a blog post on her site Above Rubies, she called a fruitful womb a "weapon against Satan."

Jim Bob once served in the House of Representatives

 

Long before the scandal, the fame, and the money that comes along with being the star of a hit reality TV series, family patriarch, Jim Bob Duggar served his state of Arkansas as a House Representative. He ran on an anti-abortion, family values platform, and served for one term in the early 2000s, before challenging the Arkansas incumbent for his senate seat and losing in 2002.

Josh has been called an "anti-gay activist"

A few years before any news of his sex scandals reached the public, Josh Duggar openly accepted a position with "anti-gay rights" group, the Family Research Council. The FRC has been "classified as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and has a long history of attacking the LGBT community and their friends, family and allies." Similarly, Josh's mother, and family matriarch Michelle Duggar famously narrated a political robocall that went out to Arkansas voters urging them to oppose legislation meant to protect human rights. Arkansas is unlike most of the rest of the nation in that it is still legal for a person to be fired from their job for being gay, or be kicked out of their housing for being transgender. Michelle's opinion was that new laws to protect these groups should be blocked.

It was once called "17 Kids and Counting"

When the reality show first premiered on TLC in 2008 it had a different name. Why? Because little Jordyn-Grace and baby Josie were still just twinkles in Jim Bob's eyes. These two children's filmed entrance to the family provided a lot of material for good reality TV, and eventually what was once 17 Kids, became 18 Kids, and you know the rest. Will Jim Bob and Michelle welcome any more kids into their family? This mom in her late forties sought fertility counseling to assess the possibility of even more little Jim Bobs or Michelles. What is the prognosis? Apparently "Conception is not totally impossible, but most unlikely," says Mrs. Duggar.

They published a photo of Michelle's tragic miscarriage

When, at the age of 45, the Michelle Duggar announced that the family would soon welcome baby number 20, the clan was all smiles. Tragically, Michelle suffered a miscarriage. What stirred up controversy surrounding this sad event was the family's decision to name, photograph, and have a full funeral service for the would-be twentieth Duggar. One of the photos, along with a letter to her lost fetus read by Michelle is available here.

There's a reason why all the kids' names start with the letter 'J'

You may have noticed that all 19 of the Duggar offspring have been given first names that start with the letter 'J.' Is this some bizarre or prescient nod to the Kardashian Klan? Even though that would be amazing, that is unfortunately not the reason for the alliterative list. Instead, as Michelle wrote in her blog, the inspiration came from the Bible. Surprised? They named their first son Joshua (of biblical fame), and things took off from there. A set of Twins came next. John was another biblical name, and wanting to name the girl twin Ana, after a family member, the parents decided to add a J in front (Jana) "for honor." They stuck with the custom into perpetuity, stating that they didn't want any future kids to be jealous that they weren't part of the J tradition.

Jill and Jessa now have their own TLC reality show

It seems both TLC and the Duggars have seen their way clear to reestablishing their high ratings relationship without involving the admitted sexual predator, Joshua Duggar. Two of the older daughters, Jill and Jessa, who now have their own husbands and children and were both Joshua's victims in the past, are now the stars of a new TLC reality show, Jill and Jessa Counting On. So if you haven't heard enough from this controversial family, you can get your fix Mondays on TLC.

The Duggars continue to welcome us into their lives

As obsessed as we are with getting a peek into the inner workings of the Duggar clan, their outsized family life, and their bizzaro belief system, it can sometimes feel strange to feed our reality TV infatuations knowing that we're peeping on a real family with real children involved. Still, the Duggars continue to invite us into their homes via their continuing TLC programming, as well as their popular family blog. So as long as they continue to encourage us to follow their story, we're willing keep snooping.

A new baby for Josh and Anna

Even though in a giant extended family like this one, a new baby on the way is hardly unexpected news, after both a sex abuse and cheating scandal like the ones Josh Duggar and his wife Anna went through, introducing a new baby into the world together takes on added meaning. Yet low and behold, on March 17, 2017 the following public message from Josh and Anna was posted on the family website, under the title "Family Announcement:"

For nearly the last two years, we have quietly worked to save our marriage, focus on our children, and rebuild our lives together as a family. Doing so is never easy after a breach of trust. We've learned that a life of faith and rebuilding a life together is simply done one day at a time. As we continue our journey as a family and rebuild our lives, we are delighted to share with you that we are expecting a new baby boy later this year. Beauty comes from ashes and we cannot wait to see and kiss the face of this sweet new boy! — Josh and Anna

Since relationship experts generally agree that adding a new baby won't fix a rocky relationship, the news might receive mixed reviews from fans of the show. However, since having more and more kids is part of the Duggar's religion, perhaps following their customs will help the young couple rebuild.

Scandals can really take their toll

On March 28th, just 11 days after Josh and Anna's public pregnancy announcement, a Duggar family fan Facebook account, Duggar Family News, posted what In Touch reported is a fan's cellphone picture of Josh and one of his four kids, out to lunch at a casual restaurant during the family's recent trip to a homeschooling convention in Texas.

What stirred up controversy, however, was the fact that Josh looked to have gained a significant amount of weight and grown an unkempt beard since he last appeared officially in the public eye. His new look sparked a series of putative remarks online, including a series of hilarious, if speculative, titles from gossip publications, including gems like "Josh Duggar Looks Seriously Wrecked in this Shocking New Photo," and "Josh Duggar: Depressed, Unkempt, Living with Jim Bob & Michelle?"

Josh was a catfisher

Just about one month after Josh and Anna's pregnancy announcement on March 17, 2017, Life & Style exclusively broke the story that Josh will be "questioned under oath" about his Ashley Madison and OKCupid cheating scandal of 2015.

In Touch had just reported that a lawsuit was brought against Joshua Duggar by one Matt McCarthy, an "LA-based DJ and photographer who claims Josh stole his image and used it as his own on the cheating site." So not only was Josh attempting to cheat on his wife, he was also catfishing women online with stolen pictures.

Now, according to Life & Style's exclusive, the plaintiff's lawyer "will be asking questions about his activity on both Ashley Madison and OKCupid" in an attempt to "know the extent of the fraudulent conduct." That means that Duggar will need to give up the names and details of all the women he spoke to, or met with, during his dalliances, and wife Anna will have to endure it all.

Jessa refused to kiss the groom at her wedding

Us Weekly broke the story that during fifth Duggar kid, Jessa's wedding to Ben Seeward on Novermber 1st, 2014, the two declined to kiss at the alter after they were named man and wife. The article says that an unnamed source shared the pair's view that they had been waiting their whole lives to kiss someone (anyone, amirite?), and so they opted to do the deed in private, rather than in front of their "nearly 1,000 guests."

Okay, that makes sense, actually. But the strange practice is actually not one of the many family rules. We know that Jessa's older sister and her husband, Derick Dillard weren't too shy to lock lips in front of a crowd at their wedding, just a few months prior to Jessa and Ben's. They then released a striking photo of the kiss in a People exclusive.

Mom and Dad Duggar didn't wait until marriage

Okay, we don't know how far dad Jim Bob and mom Michelle Duggar actually went before their marriage in 1984, but we do know that they went ahead and stole a smooch before they were allowed.

As Michelle puts it, in video footage from TLC, and quoted here by E! Online, "We did not save our first kiss for our wedding day and we really regret that we didn't. We really should have." The Duggar patriarch and matriarch have also been open about the fact that when they were first married, they chose to use the birth control pill, which they also now regret.

Wanna date a Duggar? Sorry, courting only

In 2014, just as the eighth season of 19 Kids and Counting began to air in 2015, Today interviewed Jim Bob and Michelle about their rumored "rules of dating" for their large brood. And it turns out, there are nearly as many rules as there are Duggar kids.

According to Today, rule number one is: "Courting is not dating; it's 'dating with a purpose.'" This means no dating merely for fun or companionship, you need to be seriously looking for your life partner in order to go out with a date. So if you want to get down with a romantic partner, you had better be doing it only to vet them for marriage. Jim Bob told Today, "Courtship is really waiting for the one God has for you and praying through the whole process."

Big brother is watching

If one of the kids is in an official courting relationship, they are allowed to go out with their love interest, but only with company! As Today reported in their interview with the Duggars, "Their daughters are committed to always having a chaperone with them, whether it's Jim Bob and Michelle, or any of their siblings." Why? "Having that accountability really keeps things from going in the wrong direction," according to Jim Bob. And Michelle says that finding out who a person truly is inside, is "easier when you have more eyes looking out for you. There are a lot of things you can learn from not pairing off alone."

Alright, so Mom and Dad want to make sure no hanky panky goes down, as parents are wont to do. But the surprising thing is that when one of the Duggar sisters goes out on a "courting date," any of the boys in the family are allowed to act as the chaperone. Even a younger brother. As Michelle told Today, "The brothers can see how they treat mom and dad, or see whether they show the sisters respect," giving the Duggar boys a supposedly special way of accessing a boyfriend's worth.

Texting with an audience

Okay, so you're a Duggar and you want to go a courtin'. Fine. But don't think you can just text your crush willy nilly. Mom and Pop Duggar told Today that since daughter, Jessa, and her then-beau Ben Seeward lived four hours apart from each other before they were married, they were allowed to text.

But that doesn't mean the kids are allowed free access to the opposite sex outside their family via SMS. Jessa was only allowed to text her fiancé if she included both Mom and Dad at the same time on a CC. So you want to text your crush a little 'goodnight selfie?' Keep it PG — you're on family group chat!

Baby out of wedlock?! April Fools!

Given the family's extensive set of conduct and courting rules you wouldn't think it would be possible, but that didn't stop an off-color April Fool's Day joke about one of the Duggar boys from taking hold of the internet's imagination!

On April 1st, 2017, thehollywoodgossip.com published "Kendra Caldwell: PREGNANT By Joseph Duggar Before Marriage?!" The gossip site listed the fact that Joseph's recently official girlfriend, Kendra Caldwell, was allowed to accompany the Duggar family on a road trip of several nights, as well as a fake blog post confession by Joseph. Inquisitr debunked the story as a joke, two days later.

A wedding tradition

If you're tired of hearing about all the questionable ways in which the Duggars raise their kids, then take heart. Not everything they do is wrapped in scandal. People shared a recent "behind-the-scenes clip" of TLC's Counting On, featuring Grandma Duggar's wedding dress tradition. Jim Bob's mom, Grandma Duggar, first gave Michelle her own dress to wear for Michelle's wedding to Jim Bob. Michelle explained how she pays it forward, saying, "Now, the tradition has been that we've given a snippet of grandma's and my dress to our girls…for them to use in their wedding."

According to People, Jill had a clipping of the dress put into a handkerchief and "stuffed in [her] bouquet" as she walked down the isle, and Jessa had her clipping of the meaningful dress made into a "little rosette." For Jinger, the dress designer cut a heart-shaped piece of cloth from the dress, and sewed it onto the chest of Jinger's new wedding dress.