ADRIAN — Ken Starr, former independent counsel during Bill Clinton’s presidency, will be a speaker for Adrian College’s Jean Lok Freligh Speaker Series at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 27, in the Adrian Tobias Room. Starr released his new book, “Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation,” last September, and is currently on tour doing book signings.
Starr is possibly best known for filing the Starr Report in the 1990s, alleging Clinton lied about an affair with Monica Lewinsky during a sworn deposition. The allegation led to Clinton’s impeachment.
Starr’s new memoir is filled with previously undisclosed aspects of his office’s investigations of the Whitewater and Lewinsky scandals, as well as his frank views of the Clintons and their legacy. At the same time, in the midst of multiple investigations of President Trump and his associates as well as changing cultural attitudes toward sexual exploitation and harassment, Starr offers acute insights into such highly relevant matters as obstruction of justice, abuse of power, perjury and the constitutionality of the independent counsel law.
Starr calls the wrenching political turmoil surrounding the investigation of Bill Clinton “tragically unnecessary, a self-inflicted wound by a talented, but deeply flawed president who believed he was above the law.” Starr writes, “In the long and painful drama, he also showed contempt not only for the law, but for the American people, whom he willfully misled for his political self-preservation. He also demonstrated a shockingly callous contempt for the women he had used for his pleasure. Yet ultimately, the president was lucky. An indulgent and prosperous nation readily forgave Bill Clinton, and instead blamed the prosecutor. That would be me.”
As Starr recounts, he became the most criticized man in America as he found his hard-won reputation for integrity and fairness under assault. “I had a thick skin,” he writes, “but that kind of attack can’t be borne forever without pain. And, hurt feelings aside, my family suffered immeasurably, all thanks to the Clintons and their vicious surrogates. According to them, the nation went through the trauma of impeachment not because of Bill Clinton’s offenses, but because of an overly zealous prosecutor.”
In the face of these attacks, Starr maintained his silence for years, severely limited in what he could say by his professional obligations as a prosecutor. Furthermore, he had little desire to relive the unpleasant Clinton saga by writing about it and was consumed by his duties in the academic world at Pepperdine Law School and Baylor University. In 2016, however, Starr was stripped of Baylor’s presidency in the wake of serious allegations of off-campus sexual violence. Although not personally implicated in any way, he took responsibility as the head of the university.
After the shocking defeat of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, the Clinton era seemed to be over. Also, in light of the issues being raised by the Trump investigations, many people were rethinking the Clinton political and legal confusion, and looking for what could be gleaned from it. At long last, Starr concluded, the time was right to offer his unvarnished perspective on the Clinton investigation.
“By the end of this book,” Starr writes, “my personal account of the legacy of Bill and Hillary Clinton — a legacy of contempt — I believe most reasonable, open-minded people will agree with me. Or at least they should agree with my basic proposition: that President Clinton and the First Lady knowingly embarked on a continuing course of action that was contemptuous of our revered system of justice. I make this bold statement for one key reason: The basic facts are undisputed. The continuing debate is really about the conclusions that ‘We the People’ choose to draw from the crystal-clear record.”
Starr served as independent counsel, investigating the Clinton Administration, from 1994 to 1999. He was Time’s co-person of the year (with President Clinton) in 1998. His distinguished legal career also includes service as solicitor general under George H.W. Bush, as a federal court of appeals judge nominated by President Reagan, and as a law clerk to former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger. He served as dean of Pepperdine Law School from 2004 to 2010 and as president of Baylor University from 2010 to 2016. He is now of counsel with the Lanier Law Firm.
“Twenty years after the political tumult that made him one of the most polarizing figures in the nation, it is possible to see Ken Starr as a brilliant lawyer and reasonable man. Now, as we try to navigate another President’s epochal confrontation with the law and the constitution, Starr is a national resource,” said Michael Wolff, author of “Fire and Fury.”
The Jean Lok Freligh Speaker Series was created by friends of Adrian College and from the Adrian community in honor of Bob and Jean Freligh. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.