TLC pulls 19 Kids and Counting amid Josh Duggar molestation claims
'We are deeply saddened and troubled by this heartbreaking situation,' network says
American cable network TLC has pulled episodes of 19 Kids and Counting from its schedule, after allegations that cast member Josh Duggar molested five underage girls, including his sisters, when he was a teen.
Representatives for the network had originally refused to comment on the allegations against Duggar, who is the eldest son on the show which follows the daily dramas of a large and devout Christian family.
"We are deeply saddened and troubled by this heartbreaking situation," the network said in a statement published in the New York Times, "and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and victims at this difficult time."
TLC faced an intense backlash from viewers who were angry that the network had gone ahead with a 19 Kids and Counting marathon on Thursday despite the claims.
The alleged offences, revealed in a Springdale, Ark., police report published by celebrity gossip publication InTouch, date back to 2002, when Duggar was 14.
Duggar's parents filed the report, but police didn't lay charges.
Duggar, now a married, 27-year-old father of three, issued an apology on the Duggar family's official Facebook page.
"Twelve years ago, as a young teenager I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret," reads the message. "I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counselling."
Duggar's wife, Anna, says she knew about her husband's "past teenage mistakes" before they were married, but that she believed he had changed after he "humbled himself before God and those whom he had offended."
Tony Perkins, president of the Washington-based Christian lobbying group, said in a statement Thursday that Duggar resigned because of information becoming public that he believed would "make it difficult for him to be effective." As executive director of FRC Action, he served as a public face of the organization.
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Last October, the network abruptly cancelled Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, a colourful series about a child beauty pageant contestant amid reports her mother, June Shannon, was dating a man who was convicted of child molestation.
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Shannon was so angry at TLC's delay in cancelling 19 Kids and Counting she told celebrity gossip website TMZ on Friday that she was getting ready to sue for what she considers unfair and inconsistent treatment.
With files from The Associated Press