Joshua James Duggar
March 3, 1988
Tontitown, Arkansas, U.S.
|Occupation||Television personality, political activist|
|Known for||19 Kids and Counting|
|Parent(s)||Jim Bob Duggar|
Michelle Annette Ruark Duggar
|Relatives||18 siblings including Jana, Jill, Jessa, Jinger, and Joy-Anna|
Joshua James Duggar (born March 3, 1988) is an American former television personality and political activist. He is best known for his appearances on the reality television series 19 Kids and Counting and Counting On. The eldest child of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar's 19 children, Duggar was the executive director of FRC Action, a lobbying political action committee (PAC) sponsored by the Family Research Council, from June 2013 to May 2015, when news broke that he had molested multiple under-age girls, including four of his sisters, when he was aged 14–15.
Revelations that Duggar had molested five girls between 2002 and 2003 and had been a member of the website Ashley Madison 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 in Tontitown in Washington County in Northwestern Arkansas, on March 3, 1988 to James Robert and Michelle Annette Ruark Duggar. The first of nineteen children, he was reared in a conservative Christian home. Duggar was homeschooled and passed Arkansas' state test for a general equivalency diploma at the age of sixteen. He did not attend college.
On June 15, 2007 Josh entered in a courtship with Anna Renée Keller (b. Hilliard, Florida. The couple has six children. Their first child was born in October 2009. The couple announced on April 23, 2021 that they were expecting their seventh child, which is a girl.June 23, 1988). On June 23, 2008 they became engaged, and on September 26, 2008 were married at the Buford Grove Baptist Church in
Duggar appeared on TLC as part of the reality program, 19 Kids and Counting as well as Counting On. Starting in 2005, he appeared on earlier shows about his family on Discovery Health, when Duggar was 17 years old. The wedding of Josh 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 Republican 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, Joshua Duggar addressed rallies for the Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
From June 2013 to May 2015, he 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, he 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. Joshua 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 Josh Duggar 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. Jim Bob Duggar 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. Jim Bob and Michelle stated they were made aware of the incidents when he confessed and also stated that at the time, the girls were unaware the abuse had occurred. Jim Bob said that Josh was disciplined at home. In March 2003, Duggar's parents learned of additional incidents and victims, included the touching of a babysitter, reaching under the dress of a younger sister who was in his lap, and cornering a sister in the laundry room to reach under her clothing. 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.
Jim Bob Duggar informed police that he had enrolled Josh in a program consisting of counseling and physical labor after consulting with his church's leadership. Michelle Duggar stated he 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 Josh 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 that the Institute in Basic Life Principles center in Little Rock was open for counseling during the time Josh Duggar was there or if the building was renovated during this time period and he was assisting with the renovation.
When Josh Duggar returned home in July 2003, his father took him to meet James W. Hutchens, an Arkansas State Trooper and family acquaintance. According to Josh and his parents, the meeting was the first time any law enforcement authority was made aware of the sexual abuse. According to Jim Bob, Josh admitted to Hutchens that he had committed molestation 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 this statement, Jim Bob Duggar claimed Hutchens was told the entire story. Hutchens did not take any official action but reportedly gave Josh a "stern talk". Arkansas law states that law enforcement officers, as mandated reporters, 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 serving a 56-year prison sentence.
In 2004 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. Winfrey's producers 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 Josh returned to the home in late 2003. Family members interviewed by police said that they felt safe in their home and had forgiven Josh 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. Because of 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 in 2015 by In Touch Weekly. After initial reporting on the redacted police report, an unidentified victim who was 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 Josh 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 he was a "child molester." The allegation circulated online for years but was not publicly corroborated until the In Touch Weekly article revealed the police report.
Josh 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".
In Touch Magazine reported in a June 3, 2015 article that another police report they'd obtained said Josh had confessed to his father, on three separate occasions, to committing molestation. He'd admitted it involved a much younger sister and seven incidents. The article also noted that the family waited at least sixteen months before reporting the abuse to authorities.
According to Trace Gallagher of Fox News, the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act 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. Springdale city attorney Ernest Cate defended the release of the records, saying that while Josh Duggar was a minor at the time of the alleged incidents, he was 18 in December 2006 when the police report was filed. He added that under these circumstances, the records could be released once minors' names, as well as any potentially identifying pronouns, were redacted. Zimmerman ordered all copies of the report destroyed on May 21, 2015.
On June 5, 2015, Josh Duggar's sisters Jessa and Jill gave an interview to Megyn Kelly on Fox News Channel's The Kelly File, discussing the abuse and the reports' release. Jessa called Duggar's actions as a teen "very wrong" and stated "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".
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 in 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".
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. Dillon was seeking $500,000 in damages from him. In February 2016, Dillon chose to drop the lawsuit after evidence came to light showing that Duggar was not in Philadelphia at the time of the alleged assault.
On April 29, 2021, U.S. Marshals arrested Duggar on federal charges of possession of child pornography. Prosecutors allege that Duggar obtained the images in May 2019 and it was acknowledged that a federal investigation by the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas had been previously recommended after Duggar's used car dealership Wholesale Motorcars was searched by Homeland Security agents in November 2019 as a part of an initiative launched by the Department of Justice to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation. The federal grand jury's indictment accuses Duggar of having "knowingly" received pornographic images of children who were under 12 years old. Following his arrest, Duggar was booked into the Washington County Jail. On April 30, 2021, Duggar pleaded not guilty to one count each of charges of receiving and possessing child pornography, with his attorneys indicating that he would "fight back in the courtroom" against the charges. Duggar will remain in jail awaiting a bond hearing on May 5.
U.S Chief Magistrate Judge Erin L. Wiedemann said that, if Duggar is awarded bail, he will have to be "in a residence where there's no minor in the home." At that time, Duggar's six children were under the age of 11, and his wife Anna was pregnant with a seventh child.
A federal judge set a trial date on 6 July. Duggar could receive up to 20 years prison and up to $250,000 fine for each count.
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