Writer Responsible For Introducing the Duggar Family To The World Shares Regrets

Jim Bob Duggar

Nineteen years ago, writer Andrea Cooper wrote an article for a national magazine about the Duggar family. Now, she regrets that decision and feels partly responsible for making them famous. She never expected this to happen.

In a recent article for HuffPost, Cooper explained how the article about the Duggar family came about. She said it was her editor who suggested the story, and when she called Michelle Duggar about it, “Michelle Duggar cheerfully agreed.”

At the time, the Duggars had 14 children. At this point, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar already knew that their son, Joshua Duggar, had molested five girls, including his sisters, but they didn’t share this information with Cooper.

Cooper explained that Joshua was the only Duggar who wasn’t present at the photo shoot for the article. His parents simply said that he was at a “Christian program.” What they failed to admit was that they “sent him there, they later said, after they discovered he had molested five young girls, including several of his sisters.” She added, “Of course, I had no idea about any of this when I wrote the story.”

Cooper went on to explain that the show “17 Kids and Counting” started as a result of the article she wrote. She explained, “After my article was published, someone at Discovery Health Channel read it and commissioned a documentary for the channel about the Duggars,  according to Michelle on the family’s website. That eventually led to the TLC reality show ’17 Kids and Counting’ ― a show that ran in some incarnation for seven years, but that I never once watched.”

Now that everything has come out about Joshua’s actions, Cooper regrets writing the story, but she had no way of knowing the truth. She said, “I never imagined I’d be giving this family the platform to become such an influential force when I wrote a fluffy feature about them 19 years ago. I can only hope other extraordinary people I’ve written about, or will write about, attract a modicum of the same recognition for actual achievements, rather than for being really religious and having lots of kids.”

One reason Cooper feels so personally affected by the Duggars’ success and Joshua’s inappropriate behavior is that she is also a victim of child abuse. She shared, “I’ve felt deep sadness about the effects of Joshua Duggar’s behavior. I’ve thought about my unsuspecting role in the family’s rise to fame, and what I may share in common not with the parents, who are about my age, but with several of their daughters. I myself am a child abuse survivor.”

Although Cooper was not sexually abused as a child, she explained that there were “ongoing physical and emotional attacks” by her late mother. 

Cooper knows that it’s not fair to blame herself for the Duggar family’s fame. She admitted, “It’s often impossible to know how our decisions will play out, or to foresee how an innocent personal interest story might change so many lives in so many ways. I tend to feel responsible for everything ― call it the legacy of being an abuse survivor ― and partly because of this, I feel a little responsible for unleashing the Duggars onto the world. But I also know if I hadn’t written about them, another writer eventually would have.”