TLC has canceled 19 Kids and Counting following the May revelation that Josh Duggar, the oldest son of show stars Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, had sexually abused five girls, reportedly including some of his sisters, when he was a teenager, the Associated Press reports.
"We spent the past month and a half in thoughtful consideration about what is the best way forward here," TLC group president Marjorie Kaplan told the AP, adding that "[the show] will no longer appear on the air."
The Duggars issued a statement on their website hinting at the reported abuse but not once mentioning the word 'canceled.' It reads in part:
"With God’s grace and help Josh, our daughters and our entire family overcame a terrible situation, found healing and a way forward. We are so pleased with the wonderful adults they have all become."It is our prayer that the painful situation our family went through many years ago can point people toward faith in God and help others who also have lived through similar dark situations to find help, hope and healing, as well."
Viewer support for the show featuring the famously prolific and conservative Duggar family fell swiftly after InTouch Weekly revealed email evidence May 21 that Josh Duggar, 27, was investigated by police in 2006 for accusations that he had fondled female minors' breasts and genitals without their permission.
The incidents reportedly occured in 2002 and 2003, but the Duggars did not formally bring the crimes to police, instead having Josh speak to a family friend who was an Arkansas state trooper. An investigation by the Springdale, Ark., police department came only after a family friend found a letter, which had been stuck between the pages of a borrowed book, laying out Josh's alleged actions. Police filed no charges because the statute of limitations had expired.
TLC pulled 19 Kids and Counting from their schedule and stopped airing reruns after Josh Duggar admitted to the molestations, but the questions of whether it would be renewed for an 11th season remained in limbo until today. The show, which was formerly TLC's most popular, began losing advertisers within a week of the molestation allegations coming to light, including General Mills, Payless ShoeSource, and Choice Hotels, and was dropped by television streaming service Hulu.
The AP reports that "in a move to redirect the attention and public outcry," TLC has partnered with nonprofits Darkness to Light and the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network to launch a campaign to raise awareness about child sexual abuse in late August. The campaign will reportedly kick off with a one-hour, commercial-free documentary about the effects of molestation on survivors and their families, and will include Jill and Jessa Duggar, two of Josh Duggar's sisters; Jessa says she was sexually abused by Josh. Kaplan explained the move to AP, saying:
"[Child sexual abuse] is a fundamental problem in this country, so we've become quite passionate [at TLC] about making sure that we educate people. We feel like we have a real obligation and an opportunity to create a moment here for people to be educated and for victims to find ways to come forward."
Josh Duggar has maintained a low profile since the sexual abuse scandal gained nationwide attention, resigning from his prominent lobbyist position in the antigay Family Research Council the same day InTouch Weekly announced the allegations. He moved back to Arkansas from Washington, D.C. after admitting in People magazine that he'd "acted inexcusably."
While the Duggars remain under investigation by police in their hometown of Tonitown, Ark., InTouch Weekly has revealed that the family, with close ties to local police, has paid off-duty officers $25 an hour to provide security.
LGBT advocates have kept a close eye on the story because of the Duggars' anti-LGBT activism, which included matriarch Michelle Duggar taping a 2014 robocall that said trans women would pose a molestation threat to children if they were allowed to use the restrooms of their choice. The call was part of a campaign against an antidiscrimination ordinance in Fayetteville, Ark.
Last month, when Fox's Megyn Kelly asked Michelle Duggar if she understands why many were upset with the robocall, Duggar doubled down on her stance, referring to transgender people as potential "molesters" even though there has never been a single reported incident of a transgender person molesting someone in a bathroom. Jim Bob Duggar went on to clarify that his wife meant trans people are "pedophiles" and that their son Josh is not a pedophile, since he was a teenager when he molested five young girls.
You can read the full statement from the Duggars here.