The Duggar family is still working hard to preserve their public image, as two of their married daughters prepare for their return to television. However, one of those daughters is currently at the center of a controversy of her own. Now the family seems to be using social media to indirectly address, and contradict, the concerns being expressed by the public.
Jill Dillard and her husband Derrick sought donations for their missionary trip to Central America. On their website, and on the Duggar family's website, links appeared where fans could donate to help the couple carry out their work.
However, with the news that Jill Dillard and Jessa Seewald would be returning to TLC on their own hour-long television specials, viewers began to wonder. The conclusion was quickly drawn that Jessa's special would center around her pregnancy and the birth of her child, and that Jill's would center around her mission work.
If viewers were correct about this, then perhaps the Duggar family had known that Jill's trip would be televised well before the public was informed -- and perhaps cameras have already been on location with the Dillard family, gathering footage for the yet-to-be-announced specials.
There was more to it than that, though. Fans began to feel cheated -- if TLC was funding the trip, what were the donations for? If the trip was really a reality show clip and not an actual charitable venture, then why was the public being asked to fund it? Further, why did it seem that Jill and Derrick hopped back to the U.S. for every Duggar family event? Surely a mission trip wouldn't take place in such brief visits.
Though there has been speculation about the validity of the Dillard family mission from the beginning. Jessa was accused of faking a photo of the two leaving the country, and Jill and Derrick's work ethic was questioned, but there was no firm evidence that the young family was doing anything but spreading the Duggar family faith.
The TLC announcement, of course, added to concerns, and there have been demands for the Duggar family to account for the money that was donated, to give evidence that the Dillards were really on a mission trip, and not a publicly-funded vacation, and to assure that the public wasn't paying for reality show footage.
So far, there has been no official statement from the Duggar family, or from the Dillards. However, there does appear to be a new public relations effort underway. At no time since the family announced their plan to enact a missionary effort have they used social media to address funding (other than asking for it) until this week.
Now, both the Duggar Family Official page and Derrick's Instagram carry photos of what is described as a meeting with financial and prayer supporters.
Of course, missionary trips are commonly funded by donations and collections, and it's entirely possible that the Duggar family is merely offering a public thanks to those who help them spread their beliefs to other parts of the world. However, to many viewers who are already skeptical of the family's motives and behavior, it looks like another Duggar cover-up.
We do know from past experience that one way the Duggar family handles negative social media feedback is with a passive social media response -- this can be seen in Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar's Facebook kiss, nearly a year ago -- when the Duggar parents posted a photo of themselves kissing in response to criticism of a photo of Jessa kissing her new husband.
If the photos were meant to settle the controversy about the funds, though, it isn't enough. Across Duggar and Dillard social media pages, requests for an actual accounting of the donated funds and their use continue to roll in.
Will the Duggar family cave to pressure and provide a public accounting of how donated funds were used, or is this photo with a small group of select contributors all the viewers can expect?