Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee may not be the only Republican presidential candidate to address the child molestation accusations against conservative activist and “19 Kids and Counting” reality television star Josh Duggar. Several of the GOP’s most prominent names, including some who hope to gain the party’s nomination in 2016, have been photographed meeting with Duggar in recent months.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker are among the Republican politicians who must decide whether to denounce Duggar’s actions, to double down on their connection to the disgraced activist and issue a declaration of support or to ignore the divisive scandal entirely. Huckabee, who has already declared his candidacy for the 2016 race and a man whom Duggar has long supported, made his stance clear on Friday when he released a statement in Duggar’s defense.
“Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, 'inexcusable,' but that doesn’t mean 'unforgivable.' He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story. Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things,” Huckabee said in a statement posted to his Facebook account.
Duggar, 27, is the eldest son of the Duggar family, made famous in TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” series. He resigned from his post as director of the pro-life and anti-gay-marriage Family Research Council Thursday after an In Touch report uncovered a 2006 police report that documented how a 15-year-old Josh Duggar admitted to molesting five underage girls. Duggar’s father, Jim Bob, waited more than a year to contact authorities, and Josh Duggar never faced charges because the statute of limitations had expired, the New York Times reports.
Duggar apologized for his actions Thursday in a Facebook post. “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. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation,” Duggar said.
TLC announced Friday that it would remove “19 Kids and Counting” from the air in light of the scandal. But other than Huckabee, none of the leading Republican politicians who have associated with Duggar have addressed the child molestation scandal. As the 2016 race heats up and the Duggar family faces more scrutiny on a national level, these candidates will likely face questions about where they stand on the issue. A roundup of Republicans who have been photographed with Duggar can be found below.
— Josh Duggar (@joshduggar) May 16, 2015
— Josh Duggar (@joshduggar) January 21, 2015
— Josh Duggar (@joshduggar) September 26, 2014
— Josh Duggar (@joshduggar) May 19, 2015
— Josh Duggar (@joshduggar) August 10, 2014
— Josh Duggar (@joshduggar) February 27, 2015
— Josh Duggar (@joshduggar) May 6, 2015