If you ever tuned into TLC back in the day, you may have stumbled upon a rather peculiar bunch known as the Duggars — a Baptist family living in the small town of Tontitown, Arkansas, going about their daily lives as outspokenly pure, modest people of God.
The parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, frequently discuss their views on dating, marriage, and media consumption, often causing controversy among audiences with their strict, unconventional beliefs. Oh, and – did we mention they have 19 kids?
The couple’s hit reality show, 19 Kids and Counting, features the everyday happenings of their Christian home life and the upbringing of their equally devout children, showing them growing up under intensely restrictive rules as well traditional gender roles and expectations. Being a family of a whopping 21 members – including Mama and Papa Duggar – each episode also makes for some pretty entertaining (yet, totally wholesome) hijinks.
Although their recurring themes of female subjugation, “chaperoned courtships,” and an atypical, sheltered lifestyle are definitely enough to make viewers wince, the Duggars have quite a number of exceptionally cringe-worthy moments that they’d probably want to forget as much as we do.
From sibling controversies to unsettling transphobic statements, get ready to feel the second-hand embarrassment with these disturbingly memorable throwbacks.
Here are 15 Cringe-Worthy Moments From 19 Kids And Counting They Want Us To Forget.
15. Anna Giving Birth In The Bathroom
In the episode where Josh Duggar’s pregnant wife, Anna, finally gives birth to little baby Michael James. However, frenetic scenes of the actual event were a little too distressing to behold.
Firstly, Anna was (understandably) quite troubled to be giving birth in front of an entire camera crew – an incident like this is something that most women would be experiencing in the confines and privacy of a hospital room, rather than on national television.
Of course, like most women, childbirth isn’t exactly the most comfortable activity – and can result in a few unwanted bowel movements here and there. Already feeling quite invaded by the male cameramen, the fear of pooping in front of American audiences further impeded her ability to push out her child.
Eventually, Anna rushed into the bathroom to do her business (with only a few of her closest family), where she could finally be in peace – as well as finally give birth to her baby.
14. Michelle Duggar Denying The Concept Of “Overpopulation”
This family has absolutely no shortage of wacky beliefs, but Michelle Duggar claiming “overpopulation” to be a total lie is one of, if not their strangest idea yet.
According to the Duggar mom, the world “needs more children” for their to be “more joy.” She then goes on to state that “overpopulation is not accurate” and that the world’s inhabitants could all fit inside of Jacksonville, Florida.
Quoting Mother Teresa, she says that “to say that there are too many children is like saying there are too many flowers.”
In an attempt to dwindle her family’s situation, she also mentions how “resourceful” the Duggars are, often buying items second hand – including used cars and thrift store clothing.
However, it’s still pretty clear that the family’s environmental impact is way more damaging the ordinary nuclear household – and that this bizarre line of logic does nothing to debunk cold, hard facts and statistics.
13. Josh’s Inappropriate Jokes
The reality series came to a temporary halt in 2015, after it was revealed that the Duggars’ eldest son, Josh Duggar, had assaulted five younger girls – some of them being his own sisters.
The guilty Duggar publicly came out, apologizing for his “inexcusable” behaviour. With this disturbing fact in mind, however, one of his memorably disconcerting jokes back in 2008 becomes just a little bit creepier.
On an episode of 17 Kids and Counting, Josh had decided to take his (then)-fiancé Anna to the movies, but not without one of his younger siblings chaperoning the two, of course. (Coming from a devout Baptist family, none of the Duggar kids were allowed to go out on dates alone to avoid the temptation of sinning.)
Since his younger sister, Jinger, was too young to watch the film, Josh decided to have his twin siblings tag along and form a sort of “double date” with him and Anna. He then proceeded to make an inappropriate joke about his family being from Arkansas – and while it may not have meant much at the time, it’s definitely earned its spot on this list in light of recent controversial events.
12. Pre-Martial Counselling
As if being chaperoned on dates – even when you’re already fully capable of going out on your own – by your own father wasn’t bad enough, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar can’t even give their daughters their much-needed space when wedding bells are on the horizon.
The pair admitted to regularly counselling their daughters on marriage and personal matters before they officially tie the knot with their “courtship” partners – as was the (uncomfortable) case with Jill Duggar and Derick Dillard.
Before the two got hitched, the Duggar parents took the couple out for some frozen yoghurt, during which they awkwardly gave a serious pre-marital counsel session that was just as uneasy for the viewers to watch as we assume it was for the young pair to experience. Apparently, this was done on a weekly basis, as Jim and Michelle Duggar both somehow believed it was their “duty” to “equip” their children with the marital knowledge they need for their big step.
If you’ve ever felt like your parents were controlling, at least you (probably) won’t ever go through this.
11. Jill And Her Fiancé Being Told Off By Jim Bob
It’s well-known that the Duggars definitely don’t believe in sleeping with their significant others before marriage, but hugs and hand-holding should be alright… right?
Not for Jim Bob, it isn’t. One of the man’s most groan-worthy moments on the series was when Derick Dillard – fiancé of Jill Duggar – attempted to place his arm around his beau, only to have Jim bluntly insert himself between the two.
Jill Duggar has even admitted that she and Dill weren’t allowed to hold hands, as men could get inappropriately “aroused” by such activity.
All this is completely ridiculous – that goes without saying – but you’d at least expect that Jim Bob and Michelle had followed these exact same rules in their younger years.
Not exactly. The parents have, in fact, admitted to their children that they themselves had engaged in heavy physical contact before marriage (sans sleeping together, of course). However, they also said that they regret it terribly. Perhaps it is something that Jim Bob is trying to somehow atone for by playing the whole “Big Brother” act on his daughters.
10. Michelle And Jim Bob Knowing How To Party
In the second episode of season 2, parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar decide to take a trip to San Francisco in celebration of their anniversary.
Though the city has a cultural edginess that starkly contrasts with the typical Duggar taste, the two are surprisingly open to the progessive nature of the place, and take a trip down the Haight-Ashbury district.
They eventually enter a head shop and meet a hippie couple, with whom they strike a short a conversation with. The cringe begins when Jim Bob tells them that he saw a “big party” on Castro street – to which the woman responds that the entire city is one big party in of itself.
While she was, of course, pertaining to the area’s liberal views on drugs and sexuality, an oblivious Michelle excitedly replies wih, “So is our house! It’s just one big party all the time!”
Shortly after, Jim Bob is seen taking a look at a variety of marijuana pipes, commenting that they looked like “some funny-looking glassware.” When asked by the cameramen if Jim himself had ever taken drugs, he states that would never “take marijuana” and has never “taken alcohol.”
9. Jana And Jill’s Wisdom Teeth Operation
In an episode titled, “Duggars Under the Knife”, we see the eldest daughters, Jana and Jill, preparing to get their wisdom teeth taken out.
The scenes presented throughout the 44-minute timeframe were an uneasy mix of cringe and disturbing, as it is revealed that Jill has an intense phobia of needles. Of course, in order to get those television views, their ever-so-caring father, Jim Bob, allows the cameramen to focus in on his daughter’s meltdown as she eventually goes under the knife.
You’d think that we’d see his daughters have a bit of a break after an experience as terrifying as the dentist’s office, but nope. Later in the episode, they are still instructed to watch over their younger siblings – swollen, painful cheeks, and all.
8. Jessa’s Gun Promotion
In May of 2014, Ben Seewald and Jessa Duggar caused quite the stir among netizens when an Instagram photo (courtesy of Seewald) surfaced, showing the Duggar daughter posing with a large, semi-automatic rifle at a gun shop.
Featuring Jessa’ fiesty glare, the picture was captioned, “My AWESOME girlfriend, #DontmesswithJessa.” Many were none too impressed, commenting on why a devout Christian like herself would be promoting such a deadly weapon, and describing the photo to be in “bad taste.”
However, Jim Bob quickly came to her defense, stating that he placed an importance on teaching his children about the safety and use of guns and knives, and how to use them as a tool rather than as a way to hurt others.
7. Michelle Duggar’s Transphobic Robocall
Upon the passing of Arkansas’ Anti-Discrimination Bill for the employment, housing, and public rights of transgender people in the town, Michelle Duggar stirred up quite a frenzy with a robocall that brazenly campaigned against the ordinance, equating transgender individuals to “child predators”.
In her rather disturbing (and embarrassing) robocall, Duggar’s exact words were: “I don’t believe the citizens of Fayetteville would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls.”
She then goes on to say that parents would surely not want their daughters “endangered” or “traumatized” by a man intruding them in their private spaces.
Of course, the entire campaign was shunned by most – including the City Attorney, Kit Williams, who described Duggar’s ludicrous claims as nothing more than “fear-mongering.”
6. Josh Cheating On His Wife Anna
In 2008, a special episode titled “A Very Duggar Wedding” featured the eldest son, Josh, finally tying the knot with his fiancé, Anna Renee Keller. During the ceremony, we see Josh serenading his bride with a tune called “The Loyalty Song”, which was cringe-worthy enough to watch (and read about), but that wasn’t all…
Seems like this Duggar just can’t seem to stay away from trouble, because in 2015 – the very same year news about him assaulting his sisters was brought to the forefront – Josh was also caught as a member of the ever-scandalous dating site, Ashley Madison — a platform catered to married folk that encourages them to have an affair.
It doesn’t even end there, though. This loyal husband was also caught with a fake Facebook account, one which he used to befriend adult film stars.
Josh Duggar soon landed a nice little spot in The Washington Post’s list of “15 People The Internet Hated Most In 2015” and, gee, we wonder why.
5. Michelle’s Bikini Guilt
Though her daughters are definitely no strangers to the hardline Duggar rules on “modest clothing,” Mama Duggar’s early years weren’t exactly a sterling example of what she now preaches.
According to Radar Online, Michelle Duggar was actually a “pretty, very popular cheerleader” as a teenager, even having dated a few other guys before finally ending up with Jim Bob. It was also revealed that Michelle actually received complaints on her rather “baring” outfits. In fact, she used to mow the lawn in a bikini – and her neighbours were none too pleased.
In a later interview with Pop Sugar, however, Michelle admitted to feeling extreme guilt over wearing such attire back in the day, blaming herself for having possibly “stirred desire” in her neighbour’s husband. “No wonder the woman hated our family,” she stated.
In 2012, a blog post by Michelle also revealed the family’s active avoidance of beaches due to them being places full of scantily-clad women, thus making it difficult for their sons to “keep their eyes averted.”
4. Ben And Jessa’s “Official Courtship”
The Duggar parents have well and truly redefined the term “chastity” – and boy, oh boy, are their kids living it. Probably one of the family’s most awkward moments was the commencement of Jessa Duggar and Ben Seewald’s official “courtship,” held in the romantic confines of a cramped, badly-lit family office.
Ben starts off by asking to chat with Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar in private, taking them to the small office room and revealing his eagerness to take things a step further with Jessa. After all, the two had been texting quite frequently – in a group chat monitored by both Jim and Michelle.
Once the pair approved of Ben’s proposal, he awkwardly leads Jessa into the room, who stands in uncomfortable anticipation like the recipient of a “Happy Birthday” song. Fumbling for words, Ben eventually asks her if she would like to ensue an “official courtship” with him, and she consents.
Of course, the entire ordeal would have been a little less icky without Jim Bob’s comment of, “Tell you what, you go and give him a side hug if you want to – thirty seconds.”
3. The Cramped Sleeping Spaces
Back before the Duggars even had their own show (feeding us with seven entertaining years of awkward TV moments), they were featured on a TLC special titled, 16 Children and Moving In – an insightful little program on the home life of Jim Bob, Michelle, and much younger versions of the 16 eldest Duggar children.
During the special, it was revealed that the Duggar family had formerly lived in a much tinier rental house – one that was forced to accommodate all 18 of them, though the space was meant for only about five people maximum.
Due to their cramped quarters, the children’s sleeping arrangements weren’t exactly ideal, with Josh Duggar making a comment on how “there was not even enough space for all of [them] to have [their] own bed.”
In light of his recent controversy, this was a rather disturbing comment, given that Josh was about 17 at the time that the special was recorded – only about a year since the horrifying events took place.
It didn’t help that Jim Bob had to add in the joke of having to “stack” his kids on top of each other, due to lack of space.
2. Jim Bob Duggar Defending Josh
Less the month after it was revealed that Josh Duggar had assaulted five young girls, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar appeared on live television to answer a few pressing questions about the incident in an exlusive Fox News interview.
In response to the whole ordeal, Jim Bob basically excused his son from the severity of his actions, saying that “he was still a kid” or a “juvenile,” lacking the maturity and clear thought of an adult. As if that wasn’t rage-inducing enough for audiences, his ludicrous logic doesn’t end there.
Jim Bob continued to defend his son by saying that, yes, while there were “a couple incidents” where the 15 year old did touch his younger sisters underneath their clothes, “it was, like, a few seconds.”
However, topping everything off was the man’s statement of, “This was not r**e or anything like that.” If there was one top cringe-worthy moment they wanted us to forget, this definitely would be it.
1. The Duggar Girls Having No Control Over Their Bodies
Of course, it isn’t a list of the show’s cringe-worthiest moments without mentioning the blatant sexism throughout the series.
Along with constantly being encouraged to strive for marriage as their one and ultimate ambition, the Duggar daughters are taught to blame what they wear for a man’s inappropriate behaviour, and that intimacy is pretty much a man’s right.
Their mother, Michelle Duggar, had actually stated in a interview with Today that “only one person can meet that physical need of love that he has, and you always need to be available when he calls.”
She also believes that being independent is a marriage killer, and that a wife must never step outside her dutiful familial responsibilities – these being only some of what Michelle taught to an actual ladies group during the latest season’s premiere.
In an episode of 17 Kids and Counting, Jim Bob Duggar is also seen taking his eldest daughters to donate blood, without even initially asking them if they wanted to.
It seems that whether it’s sex or just ordinary life choices, the Duggar girls are subject to some severe female subjugation, and it’s easily one of the most unpleasant elements of the show.
What other moments on 19 Kids and Counting do you wish to forget? Let us know in the comments!
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