Anybody that tells you that Karma isn’t a bitch, tell them to take a look at Ken Starr; former celebrated conservative Special Prosecutor who exploited his position during Bill Clinton’s administration for political expediency and to further his own career. Now he’s the former President and Chancellor for the largest Baptist University in the world because he was more concerned with his huge salary and Baylor University’s newfound national football prominence than protecting the Christian University’s women students from celebrated key players who just happened to be sexual predators as well.
Ken Starr became famous as the Special Prosecutor assigned by a congressional committee in 1994 to investigate President Bill Clinton’s alleged involvement in the real estate venture known as Whitewater and, more importantly, the death of deputy White Counsel Vince Foster, (a Clinton confidant).
But Starr, a staunch Republican, who had already built a successful career as an attorney, appellate judge and solicitor general under President George H. W. Bush had more salacious targets in mind and aspired higher; so he saw his appointment as an opportunity to advance his career and visibility.
Not satisfied to simply fulfill his mandate from Congress, Starr, seeking as much media exposure as possible, expanded the investigation once the rumors surfaced of the President’s libidinous proclivity, and became focused on Clinton’s sex life–despite his Whitewater/Foster mandate, and specifically focused a young woman named Monica Lewinsky. Relying on recordings made without Ms Lewinsky’s knowledge, Starr’s report read at times more like a steamy romance novel than an investigation into a “boring” real estate development like Whitewater, or the death of Vince Foster. Of course the media smelled blood in the water. And Starr relished in the media spotlight and seized every opportunity to embarrass the Clinton’s regardless the lack of substantive facts in the case for which he was appointed…and it became a media wildfire.
The result? President Clinton survived impeachment, but it badly damaged his legacy, his reputation and his Presidency, which otherwise is remembered for the first budget surplus in the decades before and since his administration.
Arguably Clinton’s most memorable answer during the entire coverage came in front of a grand jury about his sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, as Clinton tried to obfuscate:“It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”
For his part, Special Prosecutor Starr performed like a voyeuristic, demanding Puritan — a reputation that proved hard for him to shake. After the feeding frenzy died down, Starr taught at several law schools and he actively represented GOP candidates trying to roll back same-sex marriage in California in 2008.
But in 2010, Starr returned to his home state of Texas, accepting the job of the president of Baylor University, the country and world’s largest Baptist University. At first blush it seemed a good match: a conservative son of a Christian minister at a majestic, private, Baptist university in his home state of Texas. With strong policies against drinking and premarital sex, Baylor has an enthusiasm for Jesus matched only by its passion for, what else, football. It is Texas after all.
The problem was that Baylor and Starr were determined to not only be competitive in the Big 12 Conference, and nationally ranked, they were willing to cover up crimes committed by several players that were being dogged by accusations of extreme sexual violence. In one particularly egregious case, a key player named Sam Ukwuachu was accused of sexually assaulting a female Baylor soccer player in 2013.
But Starr and the coaching staff were apparently more concerned with the money and prestige that comes with being a suddenly-successful football program in the state of Texas, historically dominated by the Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M, than the vicious sexual predator for whom they were covering up crimes in order to help maintain that success. Perhaps one may recall that this is not the first private, Christian University to be caught performing in decidedly un-Christian ways for national prominence, (see Southern Methodist University–NCAA : “Death Penalty”).
A Baylor investigation didn’t even give Mr. Ukwuachu a slap on the wrist, allowing him back on campus to graduate, and he would’ve been back on the football field with the Baylor Bears had it not been for a pending trial which prevented him from doing so. Finally, in August last year, Mr. Ukwuachu was convicted on felony counts of sexual violations and sentenced to six months in jail and 10 years’ probation.
And the news for Starr, as well as Baylor, only got worse. Two more football players and a former fraternity president at this supposed bastion of Christianity and now, Texas football, were charged with sexual violence. One of the perpetrators, Tevin Elliott, was also convicted and is currently in prison for his act of sexual assault. All totaled, five Baylor football players were accused of serious sexual assaults that took place between 2011 and 2015; all during Ken Starr’s presidential tenure.
It was bad enough that the Waco police seemed less than interested in investigating the cases, but Baylor’s foot-dragging and consequent stonewalling from the country’s largest Baptist University under Starr’s administration was disgusting, alarming, and downright stunning; even in the high stakes world of big-time college football.
For a staunch conservative, former attorney, appellate judge, solicitor general and son of a preacher, Starr seemed to have a great deal of trouble grasping the seriousness of sexual assault charges; unless the it was consensual and the accused happened to be a Democrat and President of the United States with which Starr could further his own career.
And Starr’s reprehensible inaction was not limited to Baylor’s football program. In 2013, the year Baylor’s scandal began percolating, Mr. Starr signed a letter urging community service rather than jail as punishment for a retired Baylor professor; Christopher Kloman. Mr. Kloman had pleaded guilty to sexually molesting five female students in the 1960s and ’70s at the private school that Starr’s own daughter had attended.
And where exactly was President Starr?
- Ignoring the candlelight vigil for victims of sexual assault that Baylor students held outside his home.
- Ducking a media interview when the scandal broke.
- Issuing windy statements laced with legalese to the Baylor community about whom and how much he cared.
- Or refusing to comment on the situation until the external review was done.
- And eventually, reluctantly, releasing only a summary of that report, not the full document, to the public.
Baylor University, the supposed bastion of Christian values, was denounced in a blistering report by the University’s Board of Regents for “mishandling” — covering up wold be a more appropriate description — credible allegations of horrific sexual violence against female students, especially alleged assaults by members of the football team.
The report stated that Starr failed to direct officials to properly investigate numerous cases of sexual violence on the campus, failed to have his subordinates address and eliminate an ugly environment where sexual violence was tolerated, and that Starr himself had to know that students were discouraged from reporting or participating in student conduct processes designed specifically to protect women at the Christian University.
In one instance, Starr was suspected knowing about but doing nothing to pursue accusations of retaliation against a female student for reporting a sexual assault by another member of the football team. Although most of these alleged assaults were committed by athletes on Baylor’s nationally-ranked football team, no action was taken, nor reported, by the university.
In assessing Starr’s and the University’s culpability, it should also be noted that at the time of the Board of Regents report, Baylor was already subject to several Title IX lawsuits, and the media had been exposing piecemeal the emerging scandal. The Board of Regents did act, but it appears belatedly, and only after Starr and Baylor failed to act.
Of course, The Board of Regents said it was “shocked,” “outraged” and “horrified” by the extent of the acts of sexual violence on the campus, which covered years 2012 through 2015, and the failure of the University to take appropriate action to punish violators and prevent future violations. The Board issued an “apology to Baylor Nation,” fired the football coach, and “transitioned” (the Regents’ term) Baylor’s President, Kenneth Starr, to the role of Chancellor. Starr also was allowed to retain his lucrative Chair and Professorship of constitutional law at Baylor’s law school.
Finally, Mr. Starr was fired as president and “resigned” as chancellor — according to Starr, “as a matter of conscience.” He relinquished his position as Chancellor, also according to Starr, because, “We need to put this horrible thing behind us. We need to be honest.” But only after being caught of course.
History can certainly be enigmatic, if not perverse. Recall back when Starr was a ruthless prosecutor whose disgusting tactics nearly brought down a U.S. President for engaging in ill-advised, but minor sexual transgressions with a White House intern primarily for political expediency. But, according to the Board of Regents Report, Starr, as the Christian University’s president, tacitly condoned or was deliberately indifferent to much more serious violations of federal law, particularly Title IX and the Violence Against Women Act.
The irony here, no, that’s too kind, the hypocrisy, is clear. He secretly taped conversations between Lewinsky and a co-worker, sought to covertly record conversations between Lewinsky and a sitting US President, tried to force Secret Service agents to testify about Clinton’s relationship with Lewinsky, and used his grand jury’s interrogative powers to coerce testimony, including that of President Clinton.
As for Baylor’s pattern of protecting star athletes who abused women at the university, Mr. Starr claimed he “didn’t know what was happening.”
Maybe it depends on what the meaning of the word “was” was.
Harvey A. Gold