The uproar began last night, when Josh Duggar’s email was discovered as part of a massive hack of email addresses associated with accounts on Ashley Madison, a dating site specifically designed for extramarital encounters whose tagline reads, “Life is short. Have an affair.” Not only that, but Duggar had paid almost $1,000 to maintain two separate accounts on the site between February 2013 and May 2015, including a $250 fee that promised a three-month “affair guarantee.”
Opportunities to savor such delicious, schadenfreude-laden hypocrisy like Hannibal Lecter over an exquisitely plated dish of human offal only come along so often, and so naturally the internet exploded with condemnations of Duggar’s behavior. That led curious bloggers to inquire as to whether Duggar had any other online dating profiles, and, indeed, that appears to be the case. Now Duggar has released a statement, which was printed in People this afternoon:
I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have secretly over the last several years been viewing pornography on the internet and this became a secret addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife.
I am so ashamed of the double life that I have been living and am grieved for the hurt, pain and disgrace my sin has caused my wife and family, and most of all Jesus and all those who profess faith in Him.
I brought hurt and a reproach to my family, close friends and the fans of our show with my actions that happened when I was 14-15 years old, and now I have re-broken their trust.
The last few years, while publicly stating I was fighting against immorality in our country, I was hiding my own personal failings.
As I am learning the hard way, we have the freedom to choose to our actions, but we do not get to choose our consequences. I deeply regret all hurt I have caused so many by being such a bad example.
I humbly ask for your forgiveness. Please pray for my precious wife Anna and our family during this time.
Whether Duggar is attempting to lay blame for actual, sleeping-with-other-women-behind-his-wife’s-back infidelity on his “pornography addiction,” or if when he says he “became unfaithful to [his] wife” he means that looking at porn is a form of adultery—a point with which Savage Love columnist Dan Savage vehemently disagrees—isn’t very clear from the statement. (It sounds like he cheated on his wife, but who knows with the fundamentalist Newspeak that comes out of the Duggars’ mouths.) Some questions, hypothetical and otherwise, do come to mind: What if he made the account, but didn’t have any luck finding a potential mistress? When it comes to cheating, is intent the same as action? And are Josh Duggar’s “personal failings” really the problem here?
The first two questions are a matter of personal ethics, and can be debated in the comments. The third depends on how much responsibility you think Josh Duggar has for his (very narrow, hypocritical) worldview. He was, after all, raised to believe all this bullshit from birth. Does that let him off the hook? Absolutely not. Is he a victim? Hell no. Is he a weak-chinned example of the essential hypocrisy of the “Moral Majority”? Hell yes. If Josh Duggar goes away, will it make homophobia and misogyny go away? It couldn’t hurt.
But as long as there is such a thing as the Christian patriarchy movement, there will be Josh Duggars. We just won’t hear about most of them. So while spiteful tweets are fine and all, let’s not overlook the forest for the schmuck.