On Friday, TLC stopped airing its hit television show 19 Kids and Counting after Josh Duggar admitted that, as a teenager, he molested multiple young girls. The program disappeared from TLC’s schedule, although the network has not yet oficially cancelled it. 19 Kids documents the lives of the Duggar family, a deeply conservative, fundamental Christian clan in Arkansas. According to police reports obtained by InTouch, Josh Duggar, the eldest son in the family, repeatedly molested young girls when he was 14. His parents found out and informed church elders, but decided not to inform law enforcement. Instead, they sent Josh away to stay with a family friend for several months. Although a police report extensively details Josh’s crimes, no charges were ever filed.
After Josh tacitly conceded on Thursday that the allegations were accurate, TLC continued to run the 19 Kids marathon it had planned. The show continued to air into Friday morning, when it was abruptly pulled. TLC has not yet commented on the molestation revelation or its decision to pull the show.
The network, which is home to some of the most beloved and reviled reality television in history, is not alone in its struggle to contend with the controversial stars of its most profitable shows. In December of 2013, A&E suspended Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty after he made wildly offensive anti-gay remarks. But conservative Christians—including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal—swiftly protested the move, and the network soon reinstated Robertson after he apologized. The entire affair was a publicity nightmare for A&E, which managed to earn the ire of both conservatives (for suspending Robertson) and liberals (for reinstating him). More recently, TLC cancelled Here Comes Honey Boo Boo after executives discovered that Mama June Shannon had romantically reunited with a man who molested her daughter. (Shannon is threatening the network with a lawsuit and has declared that it should cancel 19 Kids.)
As Gawker points out, the Duggar molestation scandal has been whispered about since 2006; that year, Oprah cancelled the Duggar’s appearance on her show, apparently after discovering Josh’s crimes. It seems likely that, if TLC had been interested in finding out the truth behind these rumors, it could have. Instead, the network waited until the issue exploded into the public eye to take action—and then held out an extra day for good measure. Apparently it was in no rush to confront the disturbing reality behind its ratings juggernaut.