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Josh Duggar inappropriately touched sisters, parents say

NEW YORK - Reality TV star Josh Duggar inappropriately touched four of his sisters and a babysitter when he was a teenager, his parents said in a Fox News Channel interview that aired Wednesday.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, who star in TLC's "19 Kids and Counting" along with their 19 children, told Fox News host Megyn Kelly their son Josh came to them around 12 years ago and said he had improperly touched his sisters.

Michelle Duggar said she was "shocked and devastated" at the news but was relieved that her son, the 14 year-old, had a "tender conscious and he was the one who came and shared on his own."

"He said he was just curious about girls and he had gone in and touched them over their clothes while they were sleeping," Jim Bob Duggar recounted in the interview, adding that the girls were unaware at first that anything had happened until he and his wife informed them.

The parents said Josh confessed to having touched two of his sisters over their clothes while they were asleep on two separate occasions. After that, Jim Bob Duggar said "safeguards" were put into place in order to protect the girls. The Duggars did not immediately contact authorities or get their son help.

It wasn't until after their son came to them a second time and confessed that he had again touched his sisters inappropriately -- this time under their clothes and while they were awake -- that they got him help.

In total, his parents say Josh Duggar inappropriately touched four of his sisters -- one of whom was under the age of 10 -- and a babysitter.

TLC pulls "19 Kids And Counting" after molestation confession

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar said they didn't contact the authorities the first time Josh spoke to them because they wanted to "reach his heart" first. But, they said when they were made aware that one of the incidents involved a very young daughter of theirs, they pulled him out of the home and took him to a Christian-based treatment facility.

They said they also got professional counseling for their daughters and Josh and later brought their son to the Arkansas State Police headquarters where they say he confessed to his wrongdoings.

"We felt like it was an important step for Josh to confess to the police because he had broken the law. If we didn't do this, we felt like it would be hanging over his head for the rest of his life," Jim Bob Duggar said.

The officer who took the report is now in jail serving 56 years for child pornography charges. No criminal charges were ever filed against Josh Duggar, who is now 27 and married with three children of his own.

After the allegations surfaced late last month, Josh Duggar issued an apology for acting "inexcusably" and resigned from his position at the Family Research Council in Washington. His parents and wife, Anna, also released statements of their own.

Arkansas police last month said they had destroyed a record outlining a nearly decade-old investigation into his actions. Published reports from news outlets that obtained the report before it was destroyed said Duggar was accused of fondling five girls in 2002 and 2003. Police only began investigating Duggar in 2006 following a tip from a family friend.

Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar told Fox News that they don't know how media outlets obtained their son's sealed juvenile record but they have met with attorneys about filing a potential lawsuit.

"There's an agenda. And there's people that are purposely trying to bring things out and twist them to hurt and slander," Michelle Duggar said.

"19 Kids and Counting" is one of TLC's most popular shows. The network immediately pulled reruns of the show off the air when the allegations concerning Josh Duggar surfaced two weeks ago. The network has said no decision has been made about whether the series will continue, but a number of advertisers have ended their sponsorships.

Jim Bob Duggar is a former state representative in Arkansas. Some of the state's Republicans have expressed support for the family, including GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, whose campaign kickoff was attended by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar.

An interview with two of Josh Duggar's sisters is scheduled to air Friday.