Every obituary of Ken Starr will focus on his stint as Independent Counsel during the Clinton administration. He became a household name turning — at tremendous taxpayer expense — a corruption probe into the Clinton family’s ultimately entirely innocent investments in a vacation home development project, into an impeachment based on Bill Clinton having an affair with an intern and lying about it under oath in a civil case.
And it’s a shame, because that may be the absolute least of the ills that marked Starr’s career.
Because at least Clinton actually did have an affair, exploit the unbalanced power dynamics that even a consensual relationship between a president and an intern will carry, and then lie about it under oath. There are liberals who don’t want to hear it but Clinton was wrong here. That said, the investigation certainly wasn’t worth it over the severity of these allegations, and Starr’s seeming addiction to the media circus gave voice to the conspiracy-fueled corners of the GOP that now dominate the Big Lie discourse. Every Hugo Chavez space laser was born of his office’s dithering over whether the Clintons murdered Vince Foster. And the probe’s need to elevate young lawyers willing to go down these rabbit holes birthed the legal career of festering scumbag Brett Kavanaugh, who was particularly obsessed with Clinton’s ejaculate for some reason.
If that were Starr’s legacy, he would be remembered for his part in a regrettable but at least understandable chapter in the country’s history.
But that shouldn’t be the focus of any retrospective on Starr’s life. Instead of fixating on his decision to drag salacious gossip into the Capitol, focus on the lives of the women of Baylor — the school where Starr served as president. Starr’s tenure ended ignominiously after a shocking pattern of sexual assault on the part of the football team came to light and a subsequent investigation implicated Starr in covering up the matter. No one actually knows the extent of his role because the school’s Board of Regents kept a lid on Pepper Hamilton’s report, but we do know the school promptly removed Starr from his job after hearing the findings.
His attempts to spin intentionally or negligently looking the other way to defend the then-successful football team from rape allegations were shocking including describing the football team character shaping and accepting a FedSoc invite to discuss TITLE IX OF ALL THINGS where he reduced the law to promoting women’s basketball and saying that schools have no role in dealing with sexual violence even while giving scholarships to accused students.
Or consider Jeffrey Epstein’s victims, because when law enforcement first caught up with the now-deceased child sex trafficker, Ken Starr was the “most powerful force” in Epstein avoiding prison according to the Miami Herald’s Julie K. Brown in her book Perversion of Justice (affiliate link).
But amid it all, he still had time to unironically claim that Robert Mueller exceeded his mandate when his investigation of Trump’s Russia ties revealed Trump… obstructing justice to stifle the investigation. While it played mostly for laughs, it ranks as a shiny emblem of the death of honest discourse and a blessing for the cable-news-addled dolts who seek the blessing of someone like Starr to say the rule of law is entirely in the eyes of the party of the beholder.
There are people who loved Ken Starr who are sad today. People are multifaceted and their loss of a friend or family member is no less real because of the things he did in his public life. But Ken Starr blithely visited real harm on people who are no less real.
And his career exacted a toll upon the fabric of the nation’s politics and — through Kavanaugh — legal system that will continue to reverberate.
Earlier: Ken Starr’s Defense Of His Baylor Tenure Is… Not Compelling
The Ken Starr Trainwreck Goes Supernova
Ken Starr Is Just Making Everything Worse
Irony Alert: Ken Starr Should Lose His Job For Not Investigating Real Sex Crimes
Ken Starr’s Embarrassing ESPN Interview — How Can He Still Teach Law?
Ken Starr Fails Deposition 101
Ken Starr Completely Out At Baylor Law School
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.