UPDATE, 6/1: Ken Starr has resigned from his position of Chancellor at He still maintains that he “didn’t know what was happening” regarding accusations that rape allegations against the football team were mishandled, but he says “The captain goes down with the ship,” he said. He will still teach at the law school.
Ken Starr hates women. Too harsh? It at least seems appropriate to write that Ken Starr, without shame, holds the lives of women in contempt and that this emotional tic has served him quite well. It is also, finally, catching up to him. In the 1990s, Starr rose to lurid national prominence as the right-wing grand inquisitor of Bill Clinton’s sex life. Today, he is the deposed president of Baylor, someone who, it seems, callously disregarded multiple allegations of sexual assault because the rapists were on the football team (although the acceptance of rape at Baylor seems to extend well beyond the football field). Yet Starr’s 1990s puritan zealotry and his blithe inactions today are two sides of the same gold coin.
Those of us over a certain age will always remember Ken Starr as the smooth-faced, cherubic independent prosecutor with the rimless glasses, peering into every last scandal of Bill Clinton’s presidency with unprecedented latitude. It would have been remarkable—as historian Howard Zinn said at the time—if an independent prosecutor was examining the influence of Wall Street on Clinton’s neoliberal agenda, or the influence of the private prison industry. But Starr’s interest always strayed below the belt.
His mandate somehow turned into “The Starr Report,” his bluntly written, cringe-inducing, widely disseminated account of Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, which attempted to uncover the critical constitutional question about whether blowjobs should be classified as “sex.” It was a transparent effort to shame Clinton out of office, with an absence of concern of what such an effort would do to Lewinsky. The report and attendant shaming sent her out of the country and into a state where she contemplated suicide. While she suffered, Ken Starr became a hero in conservative circles for his stoning of Lewinsky in the public square.
In the end, Bill Clinton—whom Starr has said recently that he “liked”—weathered his impeachment and is currently preparing for dynastic restoration. Lewinsky has had a much more harrowing time of it, although her recent speeches about public shaming are impressive for their ability to connect her seemingly unique ordeal with issues such as cyber-bullying and “revenge porn.”