How Megyn Kelly Helped the Duggars Redefine Their Scandal

Ken Tucker
·Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
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A new narrative is forming around the Duggar scandal: Forgive and forget what Josh Duggar did to young girls — the real crime is that the information about what he did was illegally released. That is what Megyn Kelly helped Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar emphasize in her exclusive interview with the Duggar parents on Wednesday night. It was a topic Kelly had begun touting on the Tuesday edition of Fox News’s The Kelly File

When she’s in her Manhattan studio bat-cave, Kelly is a sharp-witted avenger, hammering guests until they come clean or cry defeat. But in agreeing to journey to the Duggar lair in Arkansas, Kelly lost her superpower of imperious inquisition. She seemed to surrender to the clan’s pious will: Kelly went disappointingly Barbara Walters-ish on us. “I’m sure you’re going through hell right now,” she said to Jim Bob and Michelle — and I’m going to assume that Kelly momentarily forgot that the Duggars believe in a literal hell, or perhaps she was just referring to the room where the three sat and talked, a bright suburban kitchen that we can presume was the Duggars’ home. 

Kelly let Jim Bob and Michelle go through their version of Josh’s story, that he “inappropriately touched” girls “through their clothes” — though Jim Bob also says “there were a couple of instances when he touched them under their clothes.” (The parents later noted that the victims were four daughters and a babysitter.) We heard a vague-to-the-point-of-vaporous path to redemption: Josh admitted what he’d done to his parents, who then turned him over to “a man” who ran “a training center in Little Rock,” and they “put safeguards in our home” to prevent Josh from doing whatever he did again. Nevertheless, he did whatever he did again, a few more times — “the behavior was ongoing,” as Kelly put it. So then Josh received “professional counseling,” as did “all our children,” said the parents. Now Josh is “a changed person” and “we don’t let boys babysit,” said Michelle. The parents added, “We want to be advocates for juvenile offenders.”

Tellingly, one of the few times Jim Bob and Michelle became agitated was when Kelly brought up what she said was the “illegally released police report” whose details were “not open to disclosure.” Then Jim Bob and Michelle began talking over each other about police chief Kathy O’Kelley, saying she “had an agenda” and that they weren’t “sure if there was a bribe.” What’s that now? What? Alas, Kelly was of no help in this area. She returned at the end of what was billed as “The Duggar Interview” to cite some statistic from “long-term studies” that of boys Josh’s age at the time of his illegal acts, “85 to 90 percent” are never arrested for “sex crimes” and never offend again. Imprecise enough for you?

Toward the end of the hour, Kelly announced “what is sure to be the big story”: The Kelly File showed a snippet of Duggar daughters Jill Dillard and Jessa Seewald in tears, offering their comments about the scandal and its fall-out. Turned out the “big story” was a promo for more of “The Duggar Interview,” which will resume Friday night. 

Certainly one must feel immense sympathy for the Duggar daughters, who have undoubtedly suffered in having this difficult period from their past brought up. But the rest of The Kelly File made half-hearted gestures toward pointing out the hypocrisy of Josh, Jim Bob, and Michelle as they continue to make public political statements about the dangers to society posed by gay and transgender people — all the while insisting there is a new, more important way to look at the family: as victims of a vengeful police chief and tabloid media. Jim Bob and Michelle thanked Kelly “for telling our story,” a phrase no tough interviewer wants to hear since it implies a certain partiality, and Kelly must have winced at that. 

Jim Bob and Michelle said they’re talking to lawyers. The Kelly File helped them lay the groundwork for this new chapter. It seems the media and the public aren’t the only ones who want this tale to continue to unfold — so do Jim Bob and Michelle. 

The Kelly File airs weeknights at 9 p.m. on Fox News.