Will the show go on? That is the question surrounding TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” after claims that Josh Duggar molested girls as a teenager. The network pulled repeats of the show off the air Friday even as support emerged for the Duggar clan, including from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
But there is a movement afoot to persuade TLC to cancel the show.
Several petitions on Change.org call for the cancellation of the TV series about the devout Duggar clan: parents Michelle and Jim Bob and their nine daughters and 10 sons (all of whom have names beginning with the letter “J”).
Fans were outraged after In Touch magazine published a police report outlining allegations that Josh Duggar, now 27, molested underage girls when he was 14 and 15 years old. The claims were reported to police when he was 18.
The Duggar family is well-known for a stance against birth control and for their dating rules, which are dictated by their conservative religious beliefs. Only chaperoned dates and side hugs are allowed, and there’s no hand-holding until a couple is engaged. They share their first kiss after they are married.
The network took heat for airing a marathon of the show after the revelations and Duggar’s public apology, in which he said, “Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends.”
TLC announced Friday that it was pulling repeats of the show off the air but has yet to announce long-term plans for the series.
Viewers used social media to urge TLC to end the reality series permanently.
The Duggar family has also been the subject of previous petitions to end the show.
In 2014, a Change.org petition gathered tens of thousands of signatures asking TLC and its parent network, Discovery, to oust the Duggar family’s show because of what the petition called their anti-LGBT stance. According to the petition, Michelle Duggar’s voice could be heard on a political robocall urging residents of Fayetteville, Arkansas, to repeal a law that forbade business owners and landlords from evicting and firing people based on gender identity.
In the most recent controversy, Josh Duggar resigned as head of the lobbying arm of the conservative Family Research Council, whose website states that it has a “mission is to advance faith, family and freedom in public policy and the culture from a Christian worldview.”
Duggar reportedly withdrew over the weekend from a planned public appearance at a Christian home-school convention in Sandusky, Ohio. He and his wife, Anna, who is pregnant with their fourth child, have taken down their website.
TMZ reported that at least one advertiser, General Mills, has pulled out of backing the show. The site also reported that “Mama June” Shannon has threatened legal action against TLC because it canceled her series, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” while the Duggars’ show has not been scrapped.
Shannon’s family reality series was canceled in 2014 after pictures surfaced of her with registered sex offender Mark McDaniel.
“I read that the Duggar family said, this happening with their son brought them closer to God and each other,” Shannon said. “So they’re saying it’s OK to have family touch time? Hell no.”
Washington Post TV critic Hank Stuever writes that while the initial response might be for the Duggar show to disappear, he thinks TLC should actually use the opportunity to put some reality into reality television.
“Now is the time for TLC to double down and have the courage to present America, at last, with a truly unscripted show about a family enduring a crisis largely of its own making,” he writes. “Life is not what it quite seems at the Duggar compound — but who ever watched that show and sincerely thought it was always that perfect?”