Joshua James "Josh" Duggar (born March 3, 1988) is an American television personality, political activist, and former used car salesman, known for his appearances on the reality television show 19 Kids and Counting which focuses on the life of the Duggar family. The eldest of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar's 19 children, Duggar is the former executive director of FRC Action, a lobbying PAC affiliated with and sponsored by the Family Research Council.
Revelations that Duggar had molested five girls, had been a member of Ashley Madison, and allegations (later proven false) that he had allegedly sexually assaulted pornographic film actress Danica Dillon, led to the cancellation of 19 Kids and Counting on July 16, 2015. Duggar's publicity woes were named one of the "10 Big Scandals of 2015" by USA Today while the Washington Post listed Duggar as one of the "15 People the Internet Hated Most in 2015."
Duggar was born Joshua James Duggar on March 3, 1988, in Tontitown, Arkansas, to parents James Robert ("Jim Bob") and Michelle Annette (née Ruark) Duggar. The first of nineteen children, he was raised in a conservative Christian home. Duggar was homeschooled, passing the state of Arkansas' test for a general equivalency diploma (GED) at the age of 16. He did not attend college.
Reality television personality
Duggar appeared on TLC as part of the reality television show 19 Kids and Counting. Starting in 2005, he appeared on earlier shows about his family on Discovery Health, when Duggar was 17 years old. The wedding of Duggar and Anna Keller was featured in a show episode titled A Very Duggar Wedding airing on January 25, 2009. It included the wedding planning, preparation, rehearsal, ceremony and reception. Duggar and his wife have stated they saved their first kiss for their wedding day. Multiple episodes document Duggar's children including: GrandDuggar's First Birthday airing December 7, 2010, where Duggar celebrates his daughter Mackynzie's first birthday and announces the expected birth of their second child; First Grandson, airing June 19, 2011, featured Duggar and his wife introducing their second child, Michael James; and GrandDuggar Makes 3! airing June 16, 2013, a Father's Day special introducing the Duggars' third baby, Marcus Anthony. A special titled Josh & Anna: Our Story aired on October 22, 2013, which reviewed the couple's first five years of marriage. Duggar and his wife announced the expected birth of their fourth child on an episode titled Anna's Having A..., which aired May 12, 2015. The episode included the Duggars announcing the ultrasound showed they were having another girl.
When Duggar was a teenager, his father, Jim Bob Duggar, was a two-term member of the Arkansas House of Representatives. Duggar has also been active in conservative politics; while running a car dealership he worked as a part-time political consultant in 2007 under the business name Strategic Political Services. In 2008, he worked on the Republican presidential primary campaign of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. In 2012, Duggar joined Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on his campaign tour and spoke at his rallies.
From June 2013 to May 2015, Duggar was Executive Director of FRC Action, a political action and lobbying organization sponsored by the Family Research Council. When describing his position with the organization, Duggar stated that he would be focused on "engaging the grassroots and taking the message of faith, family and freedom all across America". Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said that by hiring Duggar they hoped to appeal to more young people by tapping into the popularity of the Duggar family TV series. He further stated, "The big part of Josh’s focus is going to be building our grass-roots across the country". While working at FRC Action, conservative Republican candidates valued Duggar as a way to advance their messages to his constituents. He campaigned for Republican Senate candidates in Kansas, Mississippi, and Virginia before the 2014 midterm elections.
He described his family as the "epitome of conservative values" and advocates for what he terms "family-centered" and conservative Christian right political viewpoints, including opposition to abortion, divorce, and gay marriage. Duggar has been referred to as an "anti-gay activist" by GLAAD, a pro-LGBT rights organization formerly known as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
On May 21, 2015, a report by the magazine In Touch Weekly stated that Jim Bob Duggar had told the Arkansas State Police that Duggar had molested five underage girls between 2002 and 2003, when he was 14 and 15 years old. The magazine's source of information was a redacted police report obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request. Arkansas Judge Stacey Zimmerman ordered the original police report destroyed and the public record expunged on the same day the article was released.
The police report indicated that four of the five molestation victims were Duggar's siblings. Duggar's father reported he had learned in March 2002 that Josh had touched the breasts and genital region of his sisters on multiple occasions while they were sleeping. Duggar's parents stated they were made aware of the incidents when Duggar confessed, and at the time, the girls were unaware the abuse had occurred. Duggar's father said that Duggar was disciplined at home. In March 2003, Duggar's parents learned of additional incidents and victims with Duggar confessing he had touched their breasts and genital region while they slept and in a few cases while awake. The Duggars had also been told the abuse included a much younger sister, who, according to the Duggars, "didn't understand she had been improperly touched." At this time, Duggar's father brought the issue to the elders of their church.
Duggar's father reported to police that he had enrolled Duggar in a program consisting of physical labor and counseling, after consulting with his church's leadership. Duggar's mother stated Duggar was sent away from home for a period of three months to work for a family friend who was remodeling a building. Later reports suggest that Duggar may have been sent to a facility in Little Rock, Arkansas, owned by the Institute in Basic Life Principles, a Christian ministry and training program founded by Bill Gothard, a Duggar family friend. It has not been established if the Institute in Basic Life Principles center in Little Rock was open for counseling during the time Duggar was there or if the building was renovated during this time period and he was assisting with the renovation.
When Duggar returned home in July 2003, his father took him to meet with Jim Hutchens, an Arkansas State Trooper and family acquaintance. According to Duggar and his parents, the meeting was the first time any law enforcement authority was made aware of the sexual abuse. According to his father's recounting, Duggar admitted to the molestation to Hutchens and apologized. Speaking via a lawyer, Hutchens disputed part of the account, saying he was only told of a single act of incestuous molestation, and that he would have responded differently if he had known of additional instances and victims. In an interview following Hutchens' statement, Duggar's father claimed Hutchens was told the entire story. Hutchens did not take any official action but reportedly gave Duggar a "stern talk". Arkansas law, however, states that law enforcement officers are considered mandated reporters and are required to alert the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline when learning of sexual abuse. Hutchens was later arrested and convicted on unrelated charges of child pornography and is currently serving a 56-year prison sentence.
In 2005 and 2006, the first four TV specials featuring the Duggar family were released. In December 2006, the family was scheduled to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show. At this time, an anonymous source emailed Winfrey's Harpo Studios and called the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline to reveal Duggar's past sexual misconduct. The producers of The Oprah Winfrey Show alerted the Department of Human Services and canceled the Duggar family's appearance on the show. As a result of these reports, an investigation by the Springdale, Arkansas Police Department was launched. Department investigators spoke to Duggar's parents and several other family members, with the family describing the sexual misconduct that occurred in 2002 and 2003. The family reported that no further incidents had occurred since he had returned to the home in late 2003. Family members interviewed by police said that they felt safe in their home and had forgiven Duggar for his past behavior. According to Arkansas law, child sexual abuse charges for offenses must be filed within three years of being reported to a police officer to be within the statute of limitations. Due to the family's earlier contact with Hutchens, the statute had started at the time of the contact and had run out by the time of the 2006 investigation. As a result, no charges could be filed.
The police report of the 2006 investigation was the same report obtained by In Touch Weekly in 2015. After the initial reporting on the redacted police report, an unidentified victim, reportedly still a minor, requested that any remaining products of the investigation be destroyed. Judge Stacey Zimmerman granted this request to protect the unidentitified victim's privacy.
Though Duggar's misconduct was largely unknown to the public before 2015, a blogger writing in 2007 and identified only as "Alice" referred to the canceled Oprah Winfrey Show appearance and stated that show staffers had been told Duggar was a "child molester". The allegation circulated on blogs and other sites for years discussing the Duggars but was not publicly corroborated until the In Touch Weekly article revealed the police report.
Duggar resigned his position at The Family Research Council on May 21, 2015, after his history of sexual misconduct as a minor became public. He stated that he "acted inexcusably" as a teen and said he was "deeply sorry" for what he called his wrongdoings. In response to his resignation, FRC president Tony Perkins stated "Josh believes that the situation will make it difficult for him to be effective in his current work. We believe this is the best decision for Josh and his family at this time. We will be praying for everyone involved."
Another police report obtained by In Touch Magazine, reported in a June 3, 2015, article that as a 15-year-old, Duggar confessed on three separate occasions to his father about the molestation and that it involved a much younger sister and seven incidents. The article also notes that the Duggars waited at least 16 months before reporting the abuse to authorities.
Debate over release of police reports
According to Trace Gallagher of Fox News, Freedom of Information (FOI) law in Arkansas states that the records of a juvenile "shall remain confidential" and "shall not be subject to disclosure under the FOI." Arkansas State Senator Bart Hester said “the law to protect minors' identities is not a suggestion” and called for Springdale Police Chief Kathy O’Kelley, who released the records, to be fired, saying O’Kelley re-victimized the girls; however, the Springdale city attorney defended the release of the records, because while Duggar was a minor at the time of the alleged incidents, he was 18 in December 2006, when the police report was filed. Judge Stacey Zimmerman ordered all copies of the report destroyed on May 21, 2015.
Two of Duggar's sisters, Jessa Duggar and Jill Duggar, spoke out about the abuse and about the release of the reports during an interview with Megyn Kelly airing June 5, 2015, on Fox News Channel's The Kelly File. Jessa called Duggar's actions as a teen "very wrong". She stated further, "I do want to speak up in his defense against people who are calling him a child molester or a pedophile or a rapist, as some people are saying”. She went on to say, "that is so overboard and a lie really...I mean, people get mad at me for saying that, but I can say this because I was one of the victims”. She said "the system was set up to protect kids...it's greatly failed," and that the week preceding the interview had been "a thousand times worse for us” than the sexual abuse. Jill called the release of the police reports “a revictimization”.
Admissions following Ashley Madison breach
On August 20, 2015, following the online posting of information from the Ashley Madison data breach which included records of credit card transactions under his name, Duggar and his parents released a statement on the family website in which he admitted to watching pornography on the Internet and being unfaithful to his wife. According to the material obtained in the data breach, Duggar's credit card was used to pay $986.76 for two Ashley Madison subscriptions starting on February 2013, which were cancelled in May 2015 shortly after the molestation allegations surfaced.
The statement contained the following: "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" ... "the last few years, while publicly stating I was fighting against immorality in our country I was hiding my own personal failures." The reference to pornography was later removed from the website.
On August 25, 2015, Duggar checked himself into a rehabilitation facility that his family described as a "long-term treatment center". The facility was later confirmed in media reports as Reformers Unanimous, which describes itself as "a learning atmosphere where the addicted can be discipled in an environment that is much like a greenhouse."
Allegations of sexual assault
In November 2015, pornographic actress Danica Dillon filed suit against Duggar, claiming Duggar had "assaulted her to the point of causing her physical and emotional injuries" during an episode of consensual sex at a Philadelphia strip club earlier in the year. According to Dillon, the incident occurred after she had provided $600 worth of lap dances to Duggar; she was seeking $500,000 in damages from Duggar. In early 2016, after admitting that she lied about being with Duggar, Dillion was forced to dismiss the lawsuit and promised to never refile her suit again.
Duggar married Anna Keller on September 26, 2008. He and his wife have four children: Mackynzie Renée (b. October 8, 2009), Michael James (b. June 15, 2011), Marcus Anthony (b. June 2, 2013), and Meredith Grace (b. July 16, 2015). From 2008 until 2013 they resided in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where they owned a used car dealership. The family moved to Washington, D.C., in 2013 after Duggar was hired as executive director of FRC Action. They moved back to Arkansas in June 2015 after he resigned from FRC Action.
Duggar and his wife stated they are willing to have "as many children as God will give them". They have stated they have not ruled out the possibility of adopting children.
In popular culture
- During October 2015, Duggar was frequently mentioned as a possible Halloween costume persons should choose to avoid, with the New York Post saying persons should not go dressed as "Subway Jared, Josh Duggar or any alleged sex offender," while Details listed a Duggar costume in an article itemizing the "10 Worst Halloween-Costume Ideas of 2015." Advice against a Josh Duggar-themed costume was also published in Slate and E!.
- Duggar was parodied in a 2015 sketch on the comedy website Funny or Die. The sketch imagined a fictional response by Jim-Bob and Michelle Duggar to the revelation that Josh Duggar had molested five girls.