On Friday, a spokesperson for the Springdale, Arkansas Police Department told the Associated Press that Washington County Juvenile Court Judge Stacy Zimmerman had ordered the department to destroy records covering a nearly decade-old investigation into reality TV star Josh Duggar:
“The judge ordered us yesterday to expunge that record,” spokesman Scott Lewis said, adding that similar records are typically kept indefinitely. “As far as the Springdale Police Department is concerned this report doesn’t exist.”
Judge Zimmerman’s office has declined to answer questions about the move, but the court order that requested destruction of the report gives the reason as a request from the victim. More specifically, Thursday’s order said one of the victims is still a minor and the records might reveal that victim’s identity. If that is indeed the case, than a bit of math homework turns these sexual allegations into an even creepier story than anyone first suspected.
The initial police report was dated 12/7/2006 and stated that the unidentified male (later determined to be Josh Duggar) touched the girls “about 3.5 years ago.” Assuming those details are correct, at least some of the alleged actions took place in mid-2003.
The problem is that if the victim who requested the destruction of the police report was still a minor on May 21st of this year, then she has to currently be under the age of 18. Which means she couldn’t have been born any earlier than May 22nd, 1997.
And that means at least one of the 2003 victims couldn’t have been any older than about six years old.
This latest revelation makes the silence from TLC and the producers of “19 Kids And Counting” even more troubling. Late on Friday TLC issued a short statement and that was only to confirm what everyone already knew: the network had pulled the show from its lineup:
“Effective immediately, TLC has pulled all episodes of 19 Kids and Counting currently from the air. We are deeply saddened and troubled by this heartbreaking situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and victims at this difficult time.”
But there are a lot of questions left unanswered about the role of the network and the show’s production company Figure 8 Films. How much knowledge did either company have about these incidents before the story broke in the news this week? If they were aware of the allegations, were any efforts made to determine the legitimacy of the claims? If they weren’t aware of the allegations, what does that say about the background check process that should accompany the participation in a show such as “19 Kids And Counting”?
It’s one thing if this story surfaced and we were just dealing with some baseless rumor. But by Friday, Josh Duggar had admitted to the allegations and issued an apology for his behavior. Similar statements have come from his parents and the validity of the police report has been confirmed by local authorities.
This is the time when it’s appropriate for TLC and Figure 8 Films to publicly discuss their role in this story. These are allegations of sexual abuse with minors. With the person apparently responsible for the behavior still an integral part of the family and their television show. It’s not enough to batten down the hatches and ignore press requests until a decision has been made about the future of the show.
It’s especially an urgent matter, given that this the second time in less than a year that TLC has been forced to pull a show due to a connection with possible child abuse or molestation. In October 2014, the network canceled the hit series “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” following reports that Honey Boo Boo’s mother was dating a convicted sex offender.
This story is more than the headline of whether or not “19 Kids And Counting” will survive the scandal. This isn’t time for silence, passive-aggressive spin or business as usual. There are a few times in any television executives professional lives when they have to decide if they are going to try and protect the franchise of the show or the future of the show’s participants. This isn’t dealing with a star who drinks too much or a couple whose marriage is falling apart in front of the cameras. This are allegations of sexual abuse and that is serious enough to offset any embarrassment or dismay executives might have about the story being so very public.
This is the time that TLC and Figure 8 Films need to grow a pair and talk about their role (or lack of one) in this unsettling and ultimately sad story. It’s time for executives to sit down with someone and talk about the entire process step by step. “This is when we learned about the allegations, this is what we did or didn’t do to make sure everything was now okay.”
In cases like this, television is a lot like medicine. The first decision to make is to make sure that at the very least, the process of putting a show on the air doesn’t substantially harm the participants. This is the time for TLC and Figure 8 Films to decide what kind of companies they want to be.