June 17, 2009 -- Reality show star Kate Gosselin, already under investigation by Pennsylvania's Labor Department for possibly breaking child labor laws, is defending herself over new magazine photos that show her presumably spanking one of the sextuplets and talking to a police officer.
According to the latest issue of In Touch Weekly, which published the photo, the embattled mother of TLC's Jon & Kate Plus 8, lost her temper with Leah, one of the sextuplets, after the five year old wouldn't stop blowing a whistle while Gosselin was on the phone.
The magazine quoted a witness saying Gosselin grabbed Leah and hit her, after telling Leah twice to stop. "The girl was screaming and crying," the witness said. "Kate just pushed her away and walked off with her coffee. Her older sisters were trying to make Leah feel better."
Gosselin responded to the brewing controversy on Wednesday in a statement posted on the Web site for Life & Style magazine.
"Whether the paparazzi are there or not, I am a mother first. I love my children and when they misbehave, I discipline them as I deem appropriate for the situation," she said through her reps.
TLC's spokeswoman Laurie Goldberg also told ABCNews.com that Gosselin called police, presumably around the time of the incident, "because the paparazzi were trespassing and blocking the street."
In the last several weeks, the Gosselin family, including husband John, has faced a whirlwind of negative publicity, including allegations of infidelity as well as claims that they are using the popular reality show to exploit their children.
The headlines initially helped boost ratings for the show. Nearly 10 million viewers tuned in to the season five premiere almost three weeks ago to watch the obviously tense and noticeably distant parents try to get things back to normal after discussing their marital problems.
But for recent shows, neither of which addressed their marital problems, viewership has declined – with only 2.9 million viewers tuning in for the last episode.
It seems the family just can't catch a break.
Family Battles Other Charges'
Last week, John Gosselin responded to allegations that he and his family had been mistreating their German shepherd puppies, Shoka and Nala.
A June 4 interview published on People.com in which Gosselin said that his kids often "beat" their dogs sparked an outcry of complaints to the local branch of the Humane Society.
"Those kids beat them up, climb on them, pull their tails, bite at them, drag them around and everything you can imagine not to do to an animal, they've done," said Gosselin, who described the dogs as "loyal creatures."
Karel Minor, the executive director of the Humane Society of Berks County, Pa., told ABCNews.com that community members have been complaining about how the Gosselins treat their dogs.
"We received about a dozen complaints," said Minor.
Minor confirmed that the two dogs have licenses in the area where the Gosselins live and that they are up-to-date on their vaccinations.
"We have no credible reason to believe in any way that there is cruelty going on," Minor said.
Gosselin, in a statement released to ABCNews.com, sought to "set the record straight" regarding the mishandling of his family pets, stating that his previous remarks about his kids were taken out of context.
"We understand the responsibilities of being good dog owners," Gosselin said. "Whenever my kids are with Shoka and Nala, everyone is carefully supervised to ensure that no one -- dog or child -- is injured."
"Shoka and Nala are loyal companions who we consider members of our family," he said. "We would never do anything to hurt them, and treat them with the respect and love that they deserve."
Gosselins Face the Wrath of Tabloids
The week before, US weekly posted an exclusive photo on its Web site of Gosselin on vacation in Utah with school teacher Deanna Hummel.
The photo, taken on March 28, according to US magazine, shows the pair at the Canyons Ski Resort in Park City during the resort's annual Spring Gruv, which features concerts and sporting competitions. The visit could show up in a future episode of the TLC reality show, which, according to US, filmed Gosselin's trip to focus on how he helps handicapped kids.
Sources who saw the pair together told the magazine they appeared "very cuddly."
Gosselin has denied having an affair since allegations of his infidelity were first reported by US on March 18. Since then, the family has dominated tabloid covers and Gosselin has battled criticism about his child rearing skills.
Earlier this month, Gosselin told People magazine that he in no way is exploiting his children.
"I don't even want to use that word, because I think it's ridiculous," he told People. "We have healthy, happy, well-adjusted, educated kids. They're bouncing around and having a good time."
Jon Getting 'More Guarded,' Kate 'Opening Up'
Jon, 32, appeared in the glossy magazine saying "enough is enough," when it comes to all the overwhelming attention the family is receiving.
"Jon's definitely suffering a little bit right now with all of this attention on him and his family. He's sort of done with the whole situation," People magazine senior staff writer Michelle Tan said. "He's said enough is enough with the paparazzi."
The interview came just weeks after his wife, 34-year-old Kate Gosselin, used the popular magazine as an outlet to describe her feelings about what was happening to her marriage. In May, she discussed the perilous state of the Gosselin union, confessing that "Jon is confused and struggling with a lot of different things."
"I think anybody who has watched the show has noticed that Kate's definitely the vocal one of the two, and Jon's very laid back. And I think now with this increased scrutiny, Kate is still opening up a bit more than Jon," Tan said.
"Jon is just getting more and more guarded," she said. "He's just feeling under the attack, and really wants to keep things private."
Jon reportedly underwent hours of rigorous media training on how to deflect personal questions during his interview in New York.
Meanwhile, Kate and the sextuplets enjoyed a family vacation on the beaches of North Carolina. With a pail in hand and an orange bikini, Kate Gosselin wowed onlookers by being tanned and toned.
Jon and Kate Gosselin's Kids Hurt by Fame?
Concerns about the Gosselins have gone beyond mere blogosphere chatter. Pennsylvania's Labor Department has launched a probe to see if the hit show is complying with child labor laws.
TLC, which airs "Jon & Kate Plus 8," said it "fully complies" with state laws and regulations.
Despite their marital woes, Kate told People the show will continue.
"I must go on and provide for my kids," she said.
But Jon had a different take on reality stardom.
"Jon does [not] view the show as a job, necessarily, but he does recognize that the show has provided incredible opportunities for him and his family, so he'll continue to do the show as long as it benefits his children," Tan said.
"But every year, when there's a renewal contract that comes along, he does say that they have family discussions about it," she said. "They bring their children into the room. The children account for 80 percent of the family. And if anybody doesn't like the cameras around, then they'll stop production."
Claiming to be hounded by fans asking for autographs, Jon said he hasn't ruled out quitting.
"It's not my job," he said. "My job is to take care of my kids."
ABC News' Alberto Orso and Imaeyen Ibanga and The Associated Press contributed to this report.