The XX Factor

The Duggar Interview Shows How Much Fox News Exploits Its Audience

Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar on The Kelly File.

Screenshot via Fox News

On Wednesday night, Megyn Kelly of Fox News interviewed Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar over the brouhaha regarding their son Josh’s lengthy stint of child molesting in his teens. The interview was a straightforward clean-up job; mostly, it served to allow the Duggars to minimize Josh’s behavior and to make excuses for covering it up. Prior to this heavily pro-Duggar presentation, Fox News ignored the story as hard as it could

A big part of the interview was giving the Duggars a chance to portray themselves as victims of a meanie anti-Christian media, with Michelle Duggar claiming that critics have “an agenda” and Kelly asking if their “Christian beliefs” were the reason people were hating on them. So much for Megyn Kelly’s reputation for being a tough interviewer. 

The Duggars have made a career out of being sanctimonious religious fanatics who obsessively police consensual sex to the point of treating even contraception like it’s a perversion. Of course, the perverts among us—who are, by the Duggars’ measure, roughly 99.99 percent of us—are going to find it very interesting that these supposedly hyperwholesome people shielded a child molester and then offered him up on reality TV and as a moral leader in his role at the Family Research Council. But no, they’re the victims here. 

What even more interesting, however, is that Fox News went all-in on running interference for the Duggars. The conservative movement, particularly the religious-right faction, angrily denies that there’s some kind of anti-woman agenda behind their relentless attacks on women’s rights, claiming instead to be protecting women (and giving them “cool” stuff) by making it harder to access abortion and contraception. Under the circumstances, it seems unwise to embrace a family that seems more worried about women having consensual sex than it is about sexual abuse. 

But while Fox News generally supports the conservative movement, it is also a capitalist enterprise. Nursing the grievances of its right-wing audience is big business. Its audience wants to hear all about how the meanie liberals are picking on this cute little Christian family for an itty-bitty multimonth rampage of child molesting. Conservatives love Fox News, but this entire interview shows that Fox is not really their friend. Given the choice between making money off its audience’s worst impulses and protecting the best interests of the conservative movement, Fox will pick the former every time.