Conservative CNN contributor Ben Ferguson expressed shock on Wednesday that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee would publicly support the Duggar family after the revelations concerning child molestation by their eldest son, Josh.
“The reality is, you have a family that cared more about protecting the brand of this family and being a total fraud than it did about the welfare of children who were abused by one of their own and covering it up,” Ferguson told host Don Lemon. “Anyone who stands with them at this point would be irresponsible. It sends the wrong message.”
Huckabee, a prospective Republican presidential candidate, defended the Duggars from what he called a “bloodthirsty media” late last week, after Josh Duggar confirmed that he molested several girls — including his sisters — as a teenager.
Fellow contributor Marc Lamont Hill said that, while Huckabee “had to step up” because the Duggars had endorsed him as a GOP nominee, other Republicans were rightly distancing themselves from the reality show stars. Hill also argued that Ferguson was being too hard on the family.
“Yes, what they did was awful; what [Josh] did was awful,” Hill said. “There should be punishment. There should be justice, there should be all of those things. But I also understand that many families live in denial about sexual assault and sexual abuse. Not just famous families, but regular families. What they did was awful, but I’m not sure that what they were doing was evil.”
A former state trooper, Joseph Hutchens, said that the family downplayed the extent of Duggar’s activities when they alerted him. Hutchens gave him a “very stern talk” but did not pursue a criminal investigation.
Ferguson countered that he was holding the Duggars to a higher ethical standard because the family did so as part of its public persona.
“They were the ones who talked about ‘incest should be punishable by you being dead afterwards,'” Ferguson said. “They put themselves in a moral place to be a light to others. And yet, in reality, in their own world, they were covering it up to keep the brand alive.”
“That’s what the GOP does all the time,” Hill shot back. “This is classic GOP playbook: you say gay people are going to hell.”
“I’ve never said gay people are going to hell, Marc,” Ferguson responded, before challenging Hill to name one “legitimate candidate” from the party who has said such a thing.
“The majority of Republicans have never said that gay people are going to hell,” he insisted.
“You just think they’re sinners and what they’re doing is an abomination to God,” Hill responded.
Watch the discussion, as aired on CNN on Wednesday, below.