Ken Starr Ignores Sexual Misconduct, Praises Bill Clinton

If you want a little background on why Kenneth Starr is having trouble at Baylor University where he has served as president since 2010, the Dallas Morning News recently did a pretty comprehensive piece on the matter. It’s really about how the school has handled allegations of sexual assault, many of which have been made against players on their football team, some of whom have been convicted. There are reports that the university’s Board of Regents has fired Starr after receiving an independent evaluation from an outside law firm.

It’s a little jarring to see Starr in so much hot water for failing to investigate sexual misconduct. It’s even more disorienting to read what he has to say about Bill Clinton:

“President Clinton was and perhaps still is the most gifted politician of the baby boomer generation,” Starr said during a panel discussion with the National Constitution Center for the book “The Presidents and the Constitution: A Living History.”

…Baylor University, where Starr now serves as president, declined to respond to local reports Tuesday that he has been fired by the Board of Regents. The reports come in the wake of a sexual assault scandal at the school involving its football team.

Starr lamented the chapter in his book on Clinton’s presidency was so focused on the investigation he conducted.

“It’s sad that the chapter is so, shall I say, rooted in the unpleasantness, as I used to call it, the recent unpleasantness, that it was so tragic for the country,” Starr said.

The comments from Starr come as the presumptive Republican nominee is increasingly bringing up Bill Clinton’s past to attack his wife, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. Trump has brought up everything from Clinton’s past infidelities to debunked conspiracy theories about the suicide of Vincent Foster, a deputy White House counsel and lawyer for the Clintons.

But despite Trump’s attacks, the man who dug up the most dirt on the Clintons took the opportunity to speak only highly of Clinton and his talent as a politician.

“Leave aside the unpleasantness, his genuine empathy for human beings is absolutely clear,” Starr said of the former president. “It is powerful, it is palpable and the folks of Arkansas really understood that about him — that he genuinely cared.”

Starr also likened Clinton’s philanthropic work post-presidency to that of Jimmy Carter, calling [it] “redemptive.”

At the Washington Post, reporter Michelle Boorstein tackles some of the larger questions raised by the scandal. Under Starr’s leadership, Baylor’s football and basketball programs have excelled, but this focus on athletics may have come at a higher cost at Baylor than elsewhere because of the university’s conservative attitude toward human sexuality.

The school maintains a status as one of the nation’s most visible, ambitious Christian universities. Some say Baylor is for evangelicals what the University of Notre Dame is for Catholics and Brigham Young is for Mormons; that is, their flagship.

For such religious schools, the question is how to balance the country’s encouragement of sexual assault victims to come forward with campus rules that restrict sexual behavior and, as a result, often inhibit open discussion. Baylor’s sexual conduct policy says it expects students to express sexual intimacy “in the context of marital fidelity.”

“This raises questions about whether serious religious universities can take part in sports at the highest levels,” said Terry Mattingly, a columnist who is part of a prominent family of Baylor graduates and who founded a journalism center at the Council for Christian Colleges and University. “It could make it harder to talk about it.”

Until 1974, women weren’t even allowed to wear pants on Baylor’s campus, so it always seems to be operating behind the times. There’s a broader problem with top athletes and coaches getting held to a lax standard that affects all universities with major sports programs. We certainly saw that in a different context at Penn State. But Baylor’s extreme social conservatism may not be very compatible with big time sports, and it certainly presents additional challenges for women who want to report sexual assaults.

The problem here may extend beyond that to not doing enough to help the women who did come forward.

In any case, Ken Starr is in trouble for keeping his nose too much out of other people’s sexual matters and he’s praising Bill Clinton pretty emphatically.

This has been the strangest of political years, and it’s not even half over, yet.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.