According to CNN, the scandal-embroiled Duggar family has retained the services of Chad Gallagher and Legacy Consulting, his Arkansas PR firm, as they fight to keep their right wing propaganda ‘reality show’ 19 Kids and Counting on the air. The show’s fate is unclear after weeks of turmoil over revelations that Josh Duggar molested family members and a babysitter more than a decade ago, and that his parents covered the matter up for years while leveraging their television fame to smear LGBTQs for supposedly endangering the sexual purity of children. The collapse of the Duggars’ wholesome image into this black hole of hypocrisy has led to widespread speculation that their television show is doomed.
Gallagher is a longtime Huckabee ally and executive director of Huck PAC, an organization which ostensibly supports conservative candidates but mostly provides cushy jobs for Huckabee’s family members during off-election years. The Duggar family’s retention of Legacy Consulting highlights their cozy relationship to the perennial culture war candidate, who is still defending them on Fox News for some unfathomable reason.
Additionally, Huckabee again expressed support for the family during an appearance on “The Kelly File” on Monday. According to Politico, the former Arkansas governor complained to host Megyn Kelly that Josh’s sisters Jessa Seewald and Jill Dillard, who came forward as victims, had been “exploited” by the media. He went on to say that even though Josh had confessed to these acts, “He was never adjudicated, but he did not confess in a court of law. The law does not hold him accountable, even if he confesses.”
So yes, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s decision to keep the matter from authorities for years, coupled with the statue of limitations expiring by the time an investigation was actually launched, likely prevented any sort of possible conviction. Huckabee was far more concerned that the Duggar sisters were exploited by the “illegal, unlawful release,” of information in police records.
Anger over the Springdale Police Department’s actions seems to be the Duggars’ single biggest talking point in this whole affair, and Huckabee has made the same noises about suing for damages. But the police record in question was made when Josh was 18, and it was released to the public in compliance with the Arkansas state Freedom of Information Act. So unless the Duggars have a time machine that allows them to go back to 1967 and change the law, no court in the land is going to entertain an actual lawsuit, because the department would have opened themselves up to litigation by the press if they hadn’t released the report. Sure, the Duggars are free to campaign against state and local government transparency if they want, but they cannot expect to do so without enlarging on the negative impression that Americans already have.
This is apparently not Gallagher’s first foray into television culture wars, by the way. Sylvester Smith, an associate at Legacy Consulting, booked the Benham brothers’ whine-and-complain tour after HGTV dumped their show in the development phase. The sons of one of America’s most notorious homophobes and abortion opponents, David and Jason Benham were unapologetic about their learned bigotry and claimed afterwards to be victims of “Satan’s demonic gay agenda.” These talking points may work fairly well for guests on evangelical talk shows, but everyone in the universe outside the right wing Christian Dominionist bubble treats such phrases as self-parody. To Huckabee and Gallagher, Jessa and Jill Duggar may be effective voices to speak for Josh, but to the rest of America they are the victims of a sick, twisted grooming that has prepared them to accept abuse and minimize their experiences.
The fact that Mike Huckabee still wants to have the Duggars campaign with him, and remains unembarrassed by all of this, explains a lot about why Huckabee has never come close to winning the GOP nomination. It’s the least he deserves for listening to Gallagher’s awful advice.