Inside '19 Kids and Counting' son Josh Duggar's secret life as a conservative lobbyist

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Inside '19 Kids and Counting' son Josh Duggar's secret life as a conservative lobbyist
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Michelle Duggar and Jim Bob Duggar appear on NBC News' 'Today' show (Photo by Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 11: AJ Calloway (C) poses with (L-R) Jessa Duggar, Jinger Duggar, Jill Duggar, and Jana Duggar during their visit to 'Extra' at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square on March 11, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Michelle Duggar, Jim Bob Duggar and Kate Upton appear on NBC News' 'Today' show (Photo by Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) James Duggar, Michelle Duggar and Matt Lauer appear on NBC News' 'Today' show (Photo by Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 11: Josh Duggar visits 'Extra' at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square on March 11, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 11: (R-L) AJ Calloway and Hilaria Baldwin interview Josh Duggar and his daughter during their visit with 'Extra' in Times Square on March 11, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 11: Hilaria Baldwin (R) interviews Josh Duggar and his daughter during their visit with 'Extra' in Times Square on March 11, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)
Two weeks ago I married my best friend! 😘 I love you, Darling! @ben_seewald
It's great living life with your best friend! @ben_seewald
We're expecting!!! So grateful to God for this new little blessing!!! #babydilly #firsttimeparents #sogratefultoGod #derickdillard #jillmdillard
We enjoyed a wonderful family dinner at the Bradford Inn! #familyvacation2014 #19kids #branson
Met Duck Dynasty's Allen & Lisa Robertson tonight!
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 10: A view of the book 'A Love That Multiplies' during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Marriott Wardman Park on February 10, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 23: Jill Duggar Dillard (L) and husband Derick Dillard visit 'Extra' at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square on October 23, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 23: (L-R) AJ Calloway interviews Jill Duggar Dillard and husband Derick Dillard during their visit to 'Extra' at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square on October 23, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)
FILE - In this March 14, 2014 file photo, Rev. Mark Harris, right, who is seeking a Republican U.S. Senate nomination in the upcoming North Carolina primary, is supported during a campaign event by Jim Bob Duggar, left, and his wife, Michelle Duggar, center, in Raleigh, N.C. The Duggars have 19 children and star in a reality TV show. (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)
FILE - In this March 14, 2014 file photo, Rev. Mark Harris, left, who is seeking a Republican U.S. Senate nomination in the upcoming North Carolina primary, was supported during a campaign event by Michelle Duggar, kneeling, and Jim Bob Duggar, back right, and many of the Duggar's 19 children, in Raleigh, N.C., The Duggars star in a reality TV show. (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)
In this Aug. 2, 2007 file photo, Michelle Duggar, left, is surrounded by her children and husband Jim Bob, third from right after the birth of her 17th child in Rogers, Ark. The Duggars announced on Friday, May 9, 2008 that they are expecting their 18th child. (AP Photo/ Beth Hall, File)
In this Aug. 2, 2007 file photo, Michelle Duggar, left, is surrounded by her children and husband Jim Bob, tsecond from left, after the birth of her 17th child in Rogers, Ark. The Duggars announced on Friday, May 9, 2008 that they are expecting their 18th child. (AP Photo/ Beth Hall, File)
Jim Bob Duggar, top left, watches as his twin sons, Jedidiah and Jeremiah, both 9, Jordyn-Grace Makiya and mother, Michelle, pose for a photo taken by Josiah, right, 12, on Friday, Dec. 19, 2008, in Rogers, Ark. Jordyn-Grace Makiya is the 18th child born into the Duggar family on Dec. 18, 2008. The cable network TLC broadcasts a weekly show about the Duggars, called "Seventeen and Counting." (AP Photo/Beth Hall)
FILE - In this Dec. 19, 2008 file picture, Michelle Duggar holds her newborn daughter, Jordyn-Grace Makiya in Rogers, Ark. No. 19 caught Michelle Duggar by surprise. The 42-year-old mom of 18 noticed that she wasn't losing weight, even though she and husband Jim Bob were on Weight Watchers, and her youngest child, 8-month-old Jordyn-Grace, was fussing while nursing. In the past, she found a fussy infant meant a change in breast milk that came with pregnancy. (AP Photo/Beth Hall)
Arkansas state Rep. Jim Bob Duggar of Springdale front center, and his wife Michelle, right, lead twelve of their thirteen children to a polling place in Springdale, Ark., in this Tuesday, May 21, 2002 file photo. Duggar was running for the U.S. Senate against incumbant Tim Hutchinson in the republican primary election. Dugger's sons Jason, 2, is pictured left, followed by Josiah, 5. (AP Photo/April L. Brown)
FILE - In a Thursday, Aug. 2, 2007 file photo, Michelle Duggar, left, is surrounded by her children and husband Jim Bob, top left, while she holds her newborn daughter, and 17th child, Jennifer Danielle, in Rogers, Ark. Michelle Duggar, the 42-year-old Arkansas mom of 18 and a soon-to-be grandmother, is pregnant again, she said Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Beth Hall, File)
Michelle Duggar, left, is surrounded by her children and husband Jim Bob, top left, while she holds her newborn daughter, Jennifer Danielle, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2007 in Rogers, Ark. Jennifer Danielle was born at 10:01 a.m., weighed 8 lbs 8 oz, was 21 inches long, and is the 17th child born to Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar. (AP Photo/Beth Hall)
GOOD MORNING AMERICA - One of America's largest families, the Duggars, talk about their new book on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, 3/11/14, airing on the ABC Television Network. They are pictured in GMA's Social Square with Dan Harris. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images) DUGGAR FAMILY, DAN HARRIS
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 11: The Duggar family visits 'Extra' at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square on March 11, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 11: The Duggar family visits 'Extra' at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square on March 11, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 11: AJ Calloway (L) interviews the Duggar family during their visit to 'Extra' at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square on March 11, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)
WOODBRIDGE, VA - OCTOBER 16: Reality telvision celebrities, Jim Bob Duggar, center, and his wife, Michelle Duggar make a stop on their 'Values Bus Tour' outside Heritage Baptist Church on Wednesday October 16, 2013 in Woodbridge, VA. (Photo by Matt McClain/ The Washington Post via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 11: The Duggar family visits 'Extra' at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square on March 11, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 11: The Duggar family visits 'Extra' at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square on March 11, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 11: The Duggar family visits 'Extra' at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square on March 11, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 11: The Duggar family visits 'Extra' at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square on March 11, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 11: (L-R) Jessa Duggar, Jinger Duggar, Jill Duggar, and Jana Duggar visit 'Extra' at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square on March 11, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 11: AJ Calloway (L) poses with Jim Bob Duggar (R) and wife Michelle Duggar during their visit to 'Extra' at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square on March 11, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 11: Hilaria Baldwin (R) interviews Josh Duggar and his daughter during their visit with 'Extra' in Times Square on March 11, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)
TODAY -- Pictured: The Duggar Family appears on NBC News' 'Today show (Photo by Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 11: AJ Calloway (L) interviews the Duggar family during their visit to 'Extra' at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square on March 11, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)
Michelle Duggar holds her newborn daughter, Jennifer Danielle, who was born at 10:01 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2007 in Rogers, Ark. Jennifer Danielle weighed 8 lbs 8 oz, was 21 inches long, and is the 17th child born to Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar. (AP Photo/Beth Hall)
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On 19 Kids and Counting, grocery shopping is a feat. Washing laundry requires grit. The Duggar family manages their child-packed home like a business, by necessity, and it makes for good TV. The uncommonly large Arkansas-based family is now TLC's longest running reality show, with 14 seasons aired since 2008.

It's a slice of American life, or at least a certain kind of American life, organized around conservative Christianity and all that entails: prayer, patriarchy, and watching only pre-recorded television in order to avoid exposure to anything tawdry.

PHOTOS: A Duggar Family Timeline: From Zero to 19 and Counting!

At 26, Josh Duggar is the clan's eldest son. He opened his own used car dealership in 2006, and started working simultaneously as a political consultant the year after. In 2013, when he quietly began working in Washington, D.C., Duggar's jump was actually to a very high-profile position-Executive Director of FRC Action, the political arm of the Family Research Council. FRC Action advocates for socially conservative legislation, including opposing LGBT non-discrimination laws, abortion and divorce.

On 19 Kids and Counting, they said only that Josh had a new job, leaving out any additional details. They focused instead on his family's adjustment to D.C. living. (There's lots of traffic; Josh's wife, Anna, is useless with a map.) But FRC Action's website welcomed Duggar to the organization in a bold font: "Josh Duggar-Eldest of '19 Kids And Counting'-Is New Face of Faith and Politics."

Regarding the decision to downplay the connection between Duggar's political job and the show, TLC Spokesperson Shannon Martin told GLAAD, an LGBT media monitoring organization, "His professional life will not be followed in the show." Only Josh and Anna's "life in the big city" would be included.

TLC did not respond to ETonline's request for additional comment.

But now the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT civil rights organization, is targeting TLC and Duggar. In part because of the FRC Action connection, but also in response to his family's call for the repeal of Ordinance 119 in Fayetteville, Ark., not far from their home, which protected all citizens from "unfair discrimination" on the basis of everything from sexual orientation to gender identity to veteran status.

NEWS: Thousands Petition to Cancel '19 Kids and Counting' Claiming 'LGBTQ Fear Mongering'

Michelle Duggar, Josh's mother, recorded robocalls that claimed Ordinance 119's protections for transgender people threatened the safety of Northwest Arkansas' women and children, and the family gave $10,000 to the campaigns of city council candidates who opposed the ordinance. (Listen to the robocall here.)

Their campaign was successful, and the ordinance was repealed. Josh Duggar tweeted, "Thanks to all who helped w/ the #Repeal119 campaign in Fayetteville, AR-supporting equality for ALL Fayetteville citizens."

Maureen McCarty, HRC's Associate Director of Digital Media, fired back in a blog post that asked bluntly, "Does TLC Know What Its Celebrities are Up To?"

The stakes are high: Money. Politics. Religion.

A special two-hour wedding episode aired in October was its highest rated show to date, beating Sons of Anarchy and landing more than 4 million viewers.

But now TLC suddenly faces similar scrutiny to that A&E received last year for Duck Dynasty, a reality show that follows the wealthy, duck hunting Robertson family-who, like the Duggars, are known for their conservative Christianity and politics.

NEWS: 'Duck Dynasty' Family 'Disappointed' In A&E

Duck patriarch Phil Robertson launched the controversy with a 2013 GQ interview in which he pejoratively compared gays with liars and adulterers. "What's the difference?" he asked.

Days later Robertson doubled down on his anti-gay remarks in an interview with MailOnline, citing Jesus and the Bible for inspiration: "I will not give or back off from my path."

Though Duck Dynasty avoided cancellation despite angry petitions and threatened boycotts, the main result of the backlash was a temporary suspension of the star-which then drew death threats for A&E's CEO for suspending him in the first place. The show generated about $400 million in merchandising revenue in 2013 alone, and as the controversy raged, sales of Dynasty-branded swag at Walmart actually surged. Ratings for the show's season finale-while solidly at the top for all cable reality shows-dropped drastically from the year before.

The Duggars seem very comfortable exercising their newfound power to advance a conservative Christian public policy agenda. "I will be engaging the grassroots and taking the message of faith, family and freedom all across America," Duggar told the New York Daily News in 2013.

This past November the Duggars asked "all married couples" to post a photo on their family Facebook page. But when same-sex spouses participated, their photos were swiftly deleted.

NEWS: The Duggars Reportedly Delete Gay Couples from Their Kissing Challenge on Facebook

LGBT activists are ready for a prime-time fight. "It is time for the TLC celebrities to end their nationwide campaign to walk back the rights of LGBT Americans," HRC's McCarty wrote. Or as advice columnist and It Gets Better author Dan Savage said more plainly in a Tweet: "The @duggarfam are very deeply sh***y people...#F***theDuggars."

TLC may not want to join this discussion, but viewers-and advertisers-are likely going to force the issue with some lobbying of their own, both in support and against the family's politics. But for now the question remains: Who can rally more-and louder-troops to the reality show battle line?

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