Amy Duggar says she has forgiven the Iowa woman who tried to extort money from the company that produces her family’s hit reality show “19 Kids and Counting.”
The Quad-City Times interviewed the 25-year-old niece of Jim Bob Duggar on Wednesday after Teresa Hunt, 49, a photographer from Bettendorf, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court, Davenport, to extortion charges.
“I have forgiven her,” Amy Duggar said, calling from her home in Fayetteville, Ark. “As a Christian, you have to. ... I pray she gets the help she needs. She obviously needs some kind of help.”
Hunt admitted in court Wednesday that she plotted to get Discovery Communications Inc. to cancel the TLC show, which focuses on the experiences of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their 19 children.
Prosecutors said she threatened to release what she claimed were damaging, intimate photos of a cast member with a much older man if Discovery didn’t pay her $10,000.
The FBI uncovered her plot by having an agent pose as a representative of Discovery who called her in January after she mailed the company a typed letter explaining the threat and included her business card, prosecutors said.
Hunt also admitted in court she has taken anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications for 20 years.
“There’s more than one side to this story,” Hunt said as she left the courthouse. “I wish you would print that.”
She then declined a request for an interview.
She was arrested Feb. 1 and has since been released on bond. She faces up to two years in prison at her sentencing, set for Nov. 9.
Amy Duggar said she never met Hunt.
“I never knew who she was,” Duggar said. “I never saw her.”
James Garrett, 56, a Branson, Mo., entertainer, has said he was the target of Hunt’s extortion plot and that Hunt claimed she had photos of him with Amy Duggar.
“I’m glad she’s finally taken responsibility for this,” Garrett said Wednesday.
Garrett previously released three photos, which he described as “totally benign,” he believed were at the center of Hunt’s plot. One shows him with his arm around Duggar in a restaurant in Branson. He added Hunt didn’t shoot the photographs but probably copied them off Facebook.
He also said he had hired Hunt in 2010 to be his promotional photographer.
Duggar said she knows Garrett well, as a friend to the Duggar family and as someone she has performed with many times.
“I’ve never had a romantic feeling for him,” she said. “He’s just a friend, a great Christian guy.”
Duggar called the whole situation “crazy,” saying she was at first “shocked” by the threat but has since been able to laugh about it.
She has her sights set on a songwriting career and is considering spinning the extortion fiasco into a country song.
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“That would be a really great idea,” she said.
Meanwhile, the self-described “wild one” on “19 Kids and Counting” has met a guy from Oklahoma and may consider a move from her native Arkansas, she said. Although she’s excited about taking risks and being adventurous in life, she said she’s still a “small-town girl” at heart.
She explained the “wild one” bit, saying she wears jeans and tank tops, unlike the Duggar women on the show who wear dresses “down to the floor.” Otherwise, she said she’s a Christian and respects the Duggars’ “conservative” views on modesty, family and education, especially home-schooling.
She shared what it’s like being on the set, which is nothing more than the Duggar home and a camera crew.
“Nothing is scripted,” she said. “There’s no lines. The camera follows the family around the house and on trips. You never know what’s going to happen each episode. It’s neat to see my family’s regular life on TV.”
She said she joined the show a few years ago when it was “17 Kids and Counting.”
She added she hasn’t ruled out starring in a spin-off reality show, maybe a show about country music.
Amy Duggar hated the publicity that erupted over the extortion case, she said.
“I caught just a glimpse of what a Hollywood movie star gets everyday,” she said.
She’s grateful for the support of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar over the past several months, and she’s even learned from the ordeal.
“It showed me the world is a big place,” she said. “There are always going to be negative people, people who absolutely hate you for no reason at all. They’re going to hate how you look, how you dress, how you talk. You’ve got to overlook it, smile and move on.”