"19 Kids and Counting" pulled by TLC in wake of child molestation claims

Last Updated May 22, 2015 5:00 PM EDT

TLC has pulled episodes of "19 Kids and Counting" off its schedule in the wake of child molestation allegations against the Duggar family's eldest son, Josh Duggar.

"Effective immediately, TLC has pulled all episodes of '19 Kids and Counting' currently from the air," the network said in a statement Friday. "We are deeply saddened and troubled by this heartbreaking situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and victims at this difficult time." The network did not comment further.

The family poses
TLC

Also Friday, Arkansas police said they had destroyed a record outlining a nearly decade-old investigation into Duggar, a day after the 27-year-old resigned his role with a prominent conservative Christian group amid reports about the allegations.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which obtained the offense report before its destruction, reports Duggar was accused of fondling five girls in 2002 and 2003. Duggar issued an apology Thursday on Facebook for what he called "wrongdoing" as a youth and resigned his role as executive director for FRC Action, the tax-exempt legislative action arm of the Washington-based Family Research Council.

Duggar appears on the TLC reality show "19 Kids and Counting," which stars his family. He is the oldest of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar's 19 children.

TLC didn't address whether its popular show would return. The program had been set to air in reruns after wrapping its most recent season.

Springdale Police began investigating Duggar in 2006 when officers were alerted to a letter containing the allegations that was found in a book lent by a family friend to someone else.

The report, originally published by In Touch Weekly, states that a member of Harpo Studios, the producer of Oprah Winfrey's then show, received an email containing the allegations before the family was set to appear in 2006. The tipster warned producers against allowing the Duggars on the show and studio staff members faxed a copy of the email to Arkansas State Police.

Springdale Police spokesman Scott Lewis said Judge Stacey Zimmerman ordered the 2006 offense report destroyed Thursday. Zimmerman didn't return a request for comment on Friday.

"The judge ordered us yesterday to expunge that record," Lewis said, adding that similar records are typically kept indefinitely. "As far as the Springdale Police Department is concerned this report doesn't exist."

Neither Duggar nor his father, a former state representative, returned calls seeking comment Friday.

TLC sparked some outrage by airing a "19 Kids and Counting" marathon Thursday after the news broke -- including from "Mama June" Shannon, whose reality series "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" was canceled by the network last year after allegations surfaced of her involvement with a man convicted of child molestation.

Shannon told TMZ she was prepared to sue TLC if the Duggar family stayed on the air, citing unfair and inconsistent treatment. "I read that the Duggar family said, this happening with their son brought them closer to God and each other. So they're saying it's ok to have family touch time? Hell no," she told the website.

The Duggar family, meanwhile, has gotten support from Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who said in a Facebook post Friday that "Josh's actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, 'inexcusable,' but that doesn't mean 'unforgivable.'"

Huckabee added, "Those who have enjoyed revealing this long ago sins in order to discredit the Duggar family have actually revealed their own insensitive bloodthirst, for there was no consideration of the fact that the victims wanted this to be left in the past and ultimately a judge had the information on file destroyed -- not to protect Josh, but the innocent victims."

Arkansas Sen. Bart Hester said Josh Duggar, who he has known for about five years, has been open and honest about the incident with wife, family and friends. State Sen. Jon Woods, who has known the Duggar family since 2005, said the family had put the issue behind them.

"It's between the family members and was addressed a long time ago but it's new to the public," Woods said. "The family had time to heal and now the public needs time to heal."