The Duggars’ TLC Future Increasingly in Doubt as Advertisers Flee

Walgreens, General Mills among companies cutting ties

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If TLC thought that the long Memorial Day holiday would make audiences—or advertisers—forget about its latest reality-show molestation controversy, then the network misjudged the severity of the situation almost as much as the Duggar family itself did. 

Last Thursday, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of TLC's hit reality show 19 Kids and Counting, confirmed allegations that their oldest son, Josh Duggar, had molested several underage girls when he was a teenager in 2002 and 2003 (including, reportedly, his own sisters). The following day, as many were kicking off their holiday weekend, the network announced it had "pulled all episodes of 19 Kids and Counting currently from the air," but did not elaborate on whether the hiatus was a temporary or permanent one.

While TLC is still on the fence about the show's future, four advertisers have already thrown in the towel. On Tuesday, General Mills, Walgreens, Choice Hotels International and Payless ShoeSource said they are severing ties with the reality show if TLC ever returns it to the schedule.

Choice Hotels and Payless were the first to announce their intentions, weighing in on Twitter:

While Walgreens first said it planned to "monitor the situation," it had changed its tune by late Tuesday, announcing on its Facebook page that "in the wake of recent news, we are no longer advertising on the 19 Kids and Counting program." General Mills, meanwhile, stayed mum on social media but also confirmed it would no longer be advertising on the show. 

The four defections—which would seem likely to be the first of many—intensify pressure on TLC to make a decision about the show's future. The network reiterated today that it had no comment about the show, or the advertisers who have severed ties with it, beyond Friday's statement. Yet while the network remains silent, increased demands for the show's cancelation, plus newly unearthed prior statements from the family, leave the family's TLC future increasingly in doubt. 

Over the weekend, a 2008 clip from the show, which was then called 17 Kids & Counting, surfaced of Josh Duggar joking about incest, mentioning that two of his siblings went on a "double date" with him and his then-fiancée Anna, which he said was okay because "we are from Arkansas."

Meanwhile, during his 2002 U.S. Senate campaign, Jim Bob said incest should be punishable by death—this, at the time Josh's alleged activities were taking place. When Jim Bob found out about the alleged abuse, he reportedly waited more than a year before contacting Arkansas police. 

TLC has a history of ignoring the many red flags surrounding the Duggar family, but the network canceled Here Comes Honey Boo last October after yet another child molestation controversy. "Supporting the health and welfare of these remarkable children is our only priority," the network said at the time. "TLC is faithfully committed to the children's ongoing comfort and well being."

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.