Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar Wednesday night delivered a disastrous interview full of distortions, deflection, and defense of their parenting decisions and their son Josh, over their daughters.
After weeks surrounded by the scandal of the news their eldest son Josh sexually molested five young girls when he was a teen, and four of them were his sisters, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar sat down with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly for an hour-long interview that aired Wednesday night.
Many had hoped that Kelly, who has gone outside the Fox box at times to perform actual feats of journalism, would deliver an interview that was not merely an opportunity for the Duggars to whitewash their actions related to this family tragedy, but to get them to see and admit their mistakes and hypocrisy.
That did not happen, in part, because Kelly was unprepared, in part because, as she has made clear publicly, she believes the Duggars have been treated unfairly, and in part because the Duggars are unable or unwilling to actually see the reality that many Americans see.
What did we learn?
The Duggar parents confirmed, for the first time in public, that Josh Duggar molested four of their girls, and a babysitter.
“He said he was just curious about girls and he had gone in and just basically touched them over their clothes while they were sleeping; they didn’t even know he had done it,” Jim Bob told Kelly.
But he later added, “This was like touching somebody over their clothes. There were a couple instances where he touched them under their clothes,” Jim Bob said. “This was not rape or anything like that,” Duggar insisted.
The Duggars told Kelly that they only learned of the molestations because Josh told them, and insisted they sat down with each girl and the girls had no idea what had happened.
"And I think we had one ray of hope that Josh had a tender conscience and he was the one that came and shared on his own, even though the others really didn’t know anything of his wrongdoing," Michelle said.
The Duggars said that because they knew Josh's heart, they at first felt they could handle the problem.
“The ray of hope was that Josh had came and told us and that his heart was still soft. Because we wouldn’t have known about any of these things if he hadn’t had came and told us,” Jim Bob said.
But Josh Duggar repeatedly molested the young girls.
"And so there was a couple more times he came and told us what he had done, and we were just devastated," Jim Bob said.
The Duggars claim “all of our children received professional counseling, including Josh.”
Jim Bob claimed they sent them to an “accredited professional counselor.” It's unclear what the accreditation was – were they licensed? – and what type of counselor they were sent to. Social worker? Psychologist? Psychiatrist? The Duggars have said at least Josh was sent to a Christian counselor.
They also said they believe Josh is not a pedophile, and that, according to Jim Bob, "the legal definition is 16 and up for an adult preying on a child. He was a child preying on a child."
The Duggar boys and girls aren't allow to play alone with each other now.
"Even since then, that I think, 'You know what, we don’t let boys babysit. They don’t play hide and seek together, two don’t go off and hide,'" Michelle said. "There are just a lot of things that we’ve put in place. We said, 'You’re not alone in a room with someone else. Always be out visible, and, you know, little ones don’t sit on big boys’ laps or people that you don’t know or even family members, unless it’s your daddy. So we just—there’s boundaries that we’ve learned.'"
Jim Bob Duggar tried to cover up the hypocrisy of Michelle's anti-trans robocall last summer.
He wrongly claimed she used the word "pedophile." She didn't, she did say transgender people are "males with past child predator convictions."
The Duggars think they're criticized because they're Christians and being persecuted for their religious beliefs.
"Do you think the backlash has been greater because people object to who you are and what you stand for?," Kelly asked.
"I think some out there do," Michelle replied, with her husband Jim Bob nodding in agreement.
"Do you think your Christian beliefs are at issue here?," Kelly asked.
"Well," Jim Bob answered, "I think, as people on the outside think, ‘Well, Christians are supposed to be perfect, you’re supposed to live this perfect life.’ No, you know what? All of us as Christians, we struggle every day."
"I know that every one of us have done things wrong," Michelle said. "That’s why Jesus came. I feel like this is more about... there is an agenda and there is people that are purposing to try to bring things out and twisting them to hurt and slander."