"We've all forgiven Josh and we've all moved on."
Jill Dillard and Jessa Seewald appeared on The Kelly File Friday night to tell their side of the story to Megyn Kelly. The two are the oldest sisters in the Duggar family, and admitted they were two of the victims named in the initial police report about Josh Duggar's misbehavior.
The interview relied on two contradictory messages from the sisters: They aren't victims, because they don't remember what happened and it wasn't that bad and they've forgiven Josh; but they are victims, and so the media is at fault for reporting what happened to them.
Here's what they had to say about what happened back in 2006:
Jessa: "I do want to speak up in his defense against people who are calling [Josh] a child molester, or a pedophile, or a rapist, some people are saying. I'm like, that is so overboard and a lie, really. I mean people get mad at me for saying that but I can say this because I was one of the victims. So I can speak out and I can say this and set the record straight here. Like, in Josh's case, he was a boy, a young boy in puberty and a little too curious about girls. And that got him into to some trouble. And he made some bad choices, but really the extent of it was mild, inappropriate touching, on fully clothed victims, most of it while girls were sleeping."
Jill: "Our case is very mild, compared what happens to some."
Jessa: "We realize this was serious, but it wasn't like a horror story or a serious thing."
So they weren't victims, and it wasn't that bad. During one of the instances when Josh went to his parents to confess, they reacted to the situation by sitting the girls down and telling them what happened to them, and having Josh ask for their forgiveness. Josh was sent away, and they all got counseling (Josh apparently had to pay for his own counseling). The parents also put locks on the doors and made sure the kids only slept in the appointed boys' or girls' room.
The girls said this reaction was commensurate with what happened:
Jessa: "I can see now as an adult, our parents handled the situation very well."
Jill: "I think not only taking the legal actions that they did, but then going the extra mile [to get us all counseling and other measures], I hope as a mom I can put the same safeguards in my family that they did."
The girls said Josh was very different after he came back from being sent away, and asked for their forgiveness.
Jessa: "When he came back it was like, I could see he made some changes in that time."
Jill: "When Josh asked us to forgive him, we had to make that choice. ... My dad says there's a difference between forgiveness and trust ... trust comes later. Josh destroyed that trust at the beginning and he had to rebuild that."
After Josh returned, Jim Bob and Michelle went to the Department of Health and Child Services to report what had happened. Jessa and Jill says they were encouraged to be entirely open and honest with the DHS officials.
Jessa: "[The DHS agents] said your parents are great parents and your home is a safe place for children."
Last month, someone with access to those records released them to In Touch Weekly, with all the names redacted, including Josh's and the victims. Jessa and Jill chose to come forward and identify themselves as two of his victims, but according to them, the media is responsible for it.
Jill: "[When I found out the report would be on the cover of In Touch Weekly,] I called my husband, in tears. I couldn't believe what was going on. Whenever I heard the police report had been released, I said, like, what? Who had a right to do this? We're victims; they can't do this to us."
Jessa: "The system that was set up to protect kids — both kids who make mistakes and who have problems like this and are affected by those choices — have failed."
Jill: "It's obviously not; they're not protecting us here."
Jessa: "And you can't FOIA juvenile cases. Everyone knows that. There's some hokey pokey going on there."
Of course, not everyone knows about how the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) pertains to police reports about minors. And whoever released the report after In Touch Weekly's FOIA request did redact the names. According to the FOIA FAQ website, you need a parent's or guardian's consent to get forms about a minor — if that person is still a minor. Since Josh Duggar is no longer a minor, it would seem that caveat doesn't apply.
But according to the Duggars, it was illegal, and In Touch Weekly had ulterior motives.
Jessa: "Maybe an agenda (was involved). The tabloids that released it, they're used to exploiting women. They're owned by Bauer, a porn company."Jill: "It's not the truth. Everything was distorted. We felt like our story wasn't being told. The victims are the only ones who can speak for themselves. Now it's been warped and told however they want to portray it. ... That's not what happened, we felt like we've dealt with it, we've taken care of it
Jessa: "I definitely feel like people that already don't like our family would be the ones to really spread this around and maliciously do so, slanderously do so. They definitely don't have the victims in mind. People say 'I feel for the girls' but they don't, because if they did they would respect our wish for this to remain private."
It should be noted that many media sites were unaware of the exact identities of Josh's victims. It was not until Jessa and Jill decided to speak to Kelly, as the family's two-part interview on Fox News that their identities became public. In addition, the family has used the platforms they have with TLC and on social media.
Kelly also asked if they could speak for the entire family as to how they're feeling now.
Jessa: "I can speak for the others as far as everybody else is angry as far as this being released. We've all forgiven Josh and we've all moved on. In this situation, we're helpless as to people handing over the report, and printing it and sensationalizing it and using it for their own profit."
After their interview was over, Kelly brought on fellow Fox News host and media pundit Howard Kurtz to discuss — on a television show mind you — how the media was at fault for addressing the fact that a cable network featured a show about a child molester.
"When you look at those two young women, one a new mother, one about to be a mother, it was almost like they were collateral damage," Kurtz said (again, on a television show, on a network that discussed the allegations at length on multiple occasions). "Media can inflict a lot of damage on people. ... Those two girls, they've been dragged through the mud, they didn't have to be sitting there talking to you. They had to."
Point of clarification: No, they didn't have to talk to Megyn Kelly. They chose to. They didn't have to identify themselves as Josh's victims. They chose to. And none of this would have ever come up if the family hadn't willfully accepted an offer to be on a television show glorifying their family and religious lifestyle. And it'd be less of a story if the family wasn't on the record on multiple occasions saying LGBT people are dangerous perverts who shouldn't be around children and who shouldn't be allowed to get married.
The family has put themselves in the public eye repeatedly for the past decade, knowing that this was on the record in their past. To blame the media for reporting something about a famous family, and to say that that's worse than molesting children, it disingenuous at best.