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Flamboyantly Pious Ken Starr Had So Far To Fall — And He Did

Reprinted with permission from Chicago Sun-Times

Perhaps you recall the eminent "Judge Starr" of Republican legend and song, a pious Christian avatar of justice and sexual propriety. Back when he was dutifully investigating President Bill Clinton's sex life — "our job is to do our job," he'd tell TV crews staking out his suburban driveway, a soft-handed househusband obediently taking out the trash — Kenneth Starr posed as a man of firm moral views and unimpeachable integrity.

Fawning newspaper profiles depicted Starr as an uxorious fellow whose favorite pastime was going for Sunday drives with his equally pious wife, singing hymns together. Never mind that said profiles were often written by the same reporters to whom independent counsel Starr's prosecutors had been leaking damning, albeit misleading, tidbits about Bill and Hillary Clinton's impending indictment for "Whitewater" crimes.

Indictments that never came, for the simple reason that bringing trumped-up charges against prominent people endangers prosecutors more than defendants. The same psalm-singing crusader eventually published the infamous Starr Report, narrating in near-pornographic detail each and every one of Bill Clinton's furtive grapplings with Monica Lewinsky.

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh mostly wrote it.

Forcing a shamefaced Clinton to face a nationally televised sexual inquisition probably saved his presidency. Millions of sinners in the TV audience cringed to see it, a possibility that never seemed to have occurred to the sanctimonious Starr or his journalistic enablers. Angry with Clinton for being such a damn fool, I never saw it coming myself.

So now comes Starr's professed former mistress to drive what should be the last nail in the rotting coffin of his reputation. Former GOP public relations executive Judi Hershman has published an essay entitled "Ken Starr, Brett Kavanaugh, Jeffrey Epstein and Me" on Medium.

I confess I never thought the man had it in him for motel room romance.

That Starr is a world-class sexual hypocrite has long been obvious. Do you know how hard it was for a name-brand Republican holy man to get himself fired as president of Baylor, the world's largest Baptist university? Covering up gang rapes by the school's football team did it. Even Starr's practice of running onto the field in a cheerleading costume couldn't save him after the truth emerged in 2016.

To hear her tell it, Starr's former mistress is anything but a woman scorned. "Our affair ran its course after a year or so of occasional encounters and a steady exchange of affectionate texts and emails," she writes. "No fireworks, no drama." Rather, it was watching a recorded interview with one of the Baylor victims that "helped me understand how I could have been blind for so long to the pattern of misogyny coursing through Starr's career."

Shedding crocodile tears, Starr made a show of empathy, but then proceeded to do nothing on the victim's behalf. "Shamelessly and effectively," Hershman writes, "he shoved rape allegations under the carpet in the name of Christianity."

Starr's role in helping negotiate a sweetheart deal for serial child rapist Jeffrey Epstein (13 months in jail with daily 12-hour passes) also troubled her. "I confess I did not recognize Jeffrey Epstein's name at the time, but I knew what statutory rape was," Hershman writes, "and I couldn't understand why Ken Starr would be involved with him. 'Is this a church thing?' I asked. 'Are you trying to "cure" him? Why would you do this!"'

"Everyone deserves representation, Judi," Starr responded, adding, "He promised to keep it above 18 from now on."

As the world knows, Epstein failed to keep his promise. A man would have to be painfully naive to think a convicted pedophile ever would. Or deeply cynical to pretend to believe him. Take your pick. Starr's efforts on behalf of the billionaire child rapist also included a covert smear campaign against the female prosecutor who'd prepared a 60-count federal indictment against his lowlife client.

"Somehow," Hershman comments, "Starr's role as the nation's parson always comes back around to sex."

Also money, I'd add. Not for nothing was Starr once a tobacco company shill. I'd also observe that for a woman with no ax to grind, Hershman deploys some awfully sharp edges.

She even recounts a 1998 episode in which Kavanaugh, then Starr's prosecutorial understudy, staged a full-on primate rage display: physically intimidating and chasing her around a conference table over a disagreement she doesn't describe. She says she'd all but forgotten his "feral belligerence" until she watched him go ballistic over Christine Blasey Ford's allegations at his Senate confirmation hearings.

She thinks he's got no business on the Supreme Court.

But at least Starr himself never got there, to his eternal regret and the nation's good fortune. Instead, he ended up in that shyster's purgatory: defending Trump against impeachment.

"It's not just the hypocrisy," Hershman thinks, "it's the damage Starr's sham moral authority has done — to our nation, to our people."

The Pedophiles' Best Friend Is A Trump Republican

Of all the lurid nonsense circulating among conspiracy-addled Republicans, none of their theories is viler than the libel of child sexual abuse that began under the rubric of "Pizzagate" and became the basis of the cult ideology of QAnon. So successful was the smear campaign begun by followers of Donald Trump that millions of deranged people now believe those gothic horror tales targeting the likes of Hillary Clinton, Chrissy Teigen, and Tom Hanks, with the connivance of Republican politicians in search of Jewish space lasers.

Then there's real life, in which actual, detestable pedophiles and other sex offenders can depend on their reliable defender Kenneth W. Starr to shield them from the punishment they deserve. Yes, it's that Ken Starr, the Savanarola of sexual propriety, who is the pedophiles' best friend.

What we have learned in recent days about the sanctimonious Starr, from his alleged sexual infidelities to his zealous defense of the late Jeffrey Epstein, not only strips away his pious pretensions as sheer hypocrisies but also raises serious questions about his conduct that must still be answered.

A former public relations executive named Judi Hershman opened the latest inquest into Starr's iniquities on July 13 when she published an essay on Medium titled "Ken Starr, Brett Kavanaugh, Jeffrey Epstein and Me" that detailed, among many other things, her own illicit affair with the former independent counsel. Her account of an episode with the borderline Kavanaugh and his uncontrollable temper when they both worked for Starr on the Clinton prosecution, as well as her disillusionment with the misogynistic Starr, is worth reading. Yes, that Ken Starr, who, she says, took her hand and "placed it on his crotch."

Hershman recalls Starr's attempt in 2010 to deceive her into "counseling" Epstein, whom he whitewashed as "a very wealthy, very smart businessman who got himself into trouble for getting involved with a couple of underage girls who lied about their ages." He explained that "everyone deserves representation" and that the very smart businessman had "promised to keep it above 18 from now on." By then Epstein had raped scores of underage girls, and thereafter continued to do so.

Hershman writes that at the time, it didn't occur to her that Starr himself would be lying about Epstein, or that he might have been involved in executing the "secret and egregious sweetheart deal" that allowed the very smart businessman to evade justice for so many years.

But according to a new book by Miami Herald reporter Julie K. Brown, who first blew the lid off that deal, Starr was zealously committed to the Epstein defense. Her earlier reporting led to the dismissal of Alex Acosta, the U.S. Attorney in Florida who signed off on that agreement, from former President Donald Trump's cabinet.

In Perversion of Justice, Brown writes that Epstein brought on Starr and Jay Lefkowitz, his longtime associate and partner at Kirkland & Ellis, because of their connections in the Bush Justice Department. Starr's campaign on behalf of Epstein included a "brutal" smear of a female prosecutor and an insider lobbying effort at the department's Washington headquarters.

Apparently, Starr has a strangely protective attitude toward molesters and rapists, even when he isn't being paid big money to defend them. A few years after his crusade on Epstein's behalf, he and his wife sent a letter to a county judge urging leniency for Christopher Kloman, a retired school administrator and friend of the Starrs who pled guilty to molesting five girls at the Potomac School in McLean, Virginia. They thought he should be sentenced to community service, but the judge instead gave him 43 years in prison.

Americans first glimpsed the dark side of Starr's character when he published the salacious Starr Report (co-authored by Kavanaugh) that led to the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton. They learned more about him when he was booted from the presidency of Baylor University for covering up the rampant sexual abuse of women on campus, including a gang rape by football players. With his partisan fanaticism and his bogus religiosity, he was a natural for Trump's impeachment defense.

Considering the smears perpetrated against Hillary Clinton in recent years, it is ironic indeed to review the unsavory conduct of a man who spent so much public time and money attempting to frame her for crimes she didn't commit as first lady. But these revelations about Starr should evoke more than bemused contempt.

What Julie Brown's book demands is a full investigation of an authentic conspiracy to pervert justice by Republican prosecutors and lawyers, including Starr. The Justice Department and the House and Senate judiciary committees must not let them get away with it.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this column wrongly identified the former US Attorney in southern Florida as Alex Azar -- the former secretary of health and human services. Azar has no connection with the Epstein case and we regret the error.]

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Danziger: Reasonable Doubts

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

12 Things You Should Know About Ken Starr’s Baylor Rape Scandal

Reposted with permission from Alternet.

Not to put too fine of a point on it, but Ken Starr is accused of ignoring sexual violence at Baylor University mostly because doing something about it would have jeopardized a cash cow. In his near six years as president of the school, Starr led an administration that law firm Pepper Hamilton concluded“as a whole failed” on every front to adequately address or attempt to investigate sexual assaults carried out by student athletes. Last week, the school’s Board of Regents issued a statement that it was “shocked and outraged” by the gross “mishandling of [sexual abuse] reports,” and announced it was firing head football coach Art Briles, sanctioning and placing on probation athletic director Ian McCaw and demoting Starr from president to chancellor. Days later, Starr announced he was stepping down from that role, but would continue to teach law at the institution.

Starr, who was once the special prosecutor behind the investigation that led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, now has a place in the pantheon of finger-wagging moralists turned scandalized figures. The man who let slip—or rather, leak—into the public record every titillating detail of Clinton’s sexual indiscretions has, as Baylor president, been decidedly less transparent abount grave and disturbing instances of sexual misconduct on his own campus. The contrast between the Starr of nearly two decades ago and today seems a complete inversion. It seems worth it to question why.

In the meantime, let’s review some of what we now know about what happened during Starr’s Baylor tenure, a period during which the school football team’s meteoric rise seems to have come at the cost of its female students’ well-being. Here are 12 things you should know about the rape scandals at Baylor.

1. Baylor ignored new federal mandates regarding sexual assault investigations.

In April 2011, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights sent every college and university that receives federal funding (essentially all but a scant few schools nationwide) a letter reasserting and clarifying the legal requirements according to Title IX. Popularly referred to as the “Dear Colleague”letter, among numerous other responsibilities the 19-page document placed particular emphasis on the need for institutions to hire a dedicated Title IX coordinator. For three years, until November 2014, Baylor failed to comply with that regulation, instead allowing sexual assault investigations to be handled by untrained and underprepared senior school officials, including football staff.

2. Baylor makes huge money off sports, and profits allegedly drove decision making.

Baylor athletics raked in $106.1 million in revenue during the 2014-2015 school year, according to CBS Sports, which based its estimate on figures reported to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education.

3. Football culture ruled at Baylor.

The chapel of football worship at Baylor sits in the school’s McLane Stadium, which it spent $266 million to open in 2014. The arena’s 45,000-plus seats are regularly filled with sold-out crowds, a testament to the immense popularity of the team in its Waco, Texas, hometown. ESPN notes that Starr was often seen rooting for the school’s various sports teams from the stands, and “was popular among students for his participation in the ‘Baylor Line,’ a school tradition in which freshman students wear yellow shirts and rush the field before home football games.” Joe Nocera at the New York Times writes that Baylor spokesperson Lori Fogelman’s voicemail message ends, “Sic ‘em Bears!”

4. A former advisory board member says the school was well aware of its athletes’ rape issues.

Earlier this year, ESPN’s Outside the Lines spoke with Michele Davis, who until 2014 served on a Baylor advisory board that examined how sexual assaults were handled with community stakeholders. She told the outlet that Baylor’s advisory board was concerned enough about sexual assaults by athletes that it “recommended that someone from the athletic department join the board.” That still is yet to happen.

Davis is also the “sexual assault nurse examiner for McLennan County,” a role that often entails being the first person to speak with sexual abuse survivors who arrive at area hospitals following their assaults. She says the university’s rape problem is outsized.

“Baylor has more sexual assault cases—that we do exams on—compared to the other schools with the same approximate population,” Davis told ESPN, referring to the two other Waco-based colleges.

She reports that she engages with approximately eight Baylor students annually. Davis also estimates that Baylor athletes, just 4 percent of the male undergraduates at the school, comprise somewhere between 25 and 50 percent of alleged sexual assault perpetrators.

5. Six women reported being sexually assaulted by a single football player, but their reports were ignored.

ESPN’s investigation found that six different women, speaking with police, implicated Baylor linebacker Tevin Elliott in sexual assaults that took place between October 2009 and May 2012. Baylor administration officials would not disclose to the outlet when the school became aware of the alleged assaults, but ESPN was told internal records indicate the university had knowledge of a separate 2011 “misdemeanor, sexually related assault citation” against Elliott made by student at an area community college. (Elliott, who was sentenced to 20 years in jail in 2014, told ESPN writer Paula Lavigne the charge never came up with any of his coaches.) The first time media became aware of any of the allegations facing Elliott was when he was arrested. Previously, football coach Art Briles had publicly stated that Elliott was suspended indefinitely for an unspecified “violation of team policy.”

6. A sexual assault victim was told by an administration official to “hope for the best.”

One of the women allegedly assaulted by Elliott told ESPN that she and her mother were directed by Baylor officials to meet with Bethany McCraw, the school’s chief judicial officer. That’s when they learned of Elliott’s five other alleged victims—news which left them justifiably confused by the school’s lack of action.

“I’m like, oh my gosh, six?” the woman, who ESPN calls “Kim,” told the publication. “We essentially asked, ‘Well, why are there six?’ and, ‘Well, does the football team know about this? Does Art Briles know about this?’ And [McCraw] said, ‘Yes, they know about it, but it turns into a he said-she said, so there’s got to be, actually a court decision in order to act on it in any sort of way.'”

But as ESPN notes, that isn’t true. Title IX explicitly states that a criminal investigation does not absolve the school of its responsibility to conduct its own inquiry. The student contends that when she requested a restraining order, McCraw informed her the best the school could do was write Elliott a letter telling him to keep his distance. “[A]nd then you kind of hope for the best,” the official allegedly stated.

7. Baylor officials allegedly pushed one survivor and her mother to get over it and stop pestering them.

Jasmin Hernandez, who says she was raped by Tevin Elliott in 2012, filed a Title IX lawsuit against Baylor in March. In court documents, she alleges a pattern of clear and utter disregard by administration officials in the days and weeks following the alleged attack. After reporting the crime to Waco police, Hernandez called her mother, who flew to campus the next day. One of her first actions was to contact Baylor Counseling Center, both to make them aware of the rape and to request followup counseling services, which are mandated by Title IX. The suit states that she was first told the center was “too busy” to see her daughter. She then reached out to the psychology department at Baylor’s Student Health Center in search of services, but was told “all counseling sessions were full.”

Days later, she telephoned Baylor’s Academic Services Department and was informed that “if a plane falls on your daughter, there’s nothing we can do to help you.” She called Briles’ office and was told by a secretary that the “office had heard of the allegations and were looking into it.” Hernandez’s father also placed calls to the office several times, but never received a response.

8. When the school did investigate, it allegedly did an incredibly poor job.

In 2013, Baylor football player Sam Ukwuachu was accused of rape by a soccer player at the university. In response, the school initiated a Title IX investigation so poorly handled a judge later refused to allow Ukwuachu’s lawyers to refer to it during his 2015 trial. According to Texas Monthly, the school’s examination of the case “involved interviewing just Ukwuachu, his accuser, and one friend of each, and…the school never saw the rape kit collected by the sexual assault nurse examiner.”

The school also reviewed results of “a polygraph test Ukwuachu had independently commissioned,” which are almost never admissible in court. The school cleared Ukwuachu in the matter and pursued no disciplinary action against the player.

9. Baylor made a concerted effort to keep various accusations against players quiet.

In May 2013, Ukwuachu transferred to Baylor from Boise State, where he had been removed from the football team for violent behavior toward a woman. According to Texas Monthly, in a press interview that year, Ukwuachu alluded to the fact that Baylor’s coaches weren’t in the dark about what had gotten him kicked off the team; he stated they “knew everything and were really supportive.” (Baylor coach Art Briles has said he was unaware of the conditions precipitating Ukwuachu’s removal, while Boise coach Chris Petersen has refutedthat claim.) Baylor attempted to secure a waiver so Ukwuachu could play football without having to wait out the one year required of athletes who transfer. Per Texas Monthly, “Boise State informed the school that they would not be providing a letter of support.”

Ukwuachu then had to sit out a second season after he was indicted on rape charges in June 2014, a fact that remained unknown to the press, because Briles obliquely cited “some issues” for keeping the player on the sidelines. Just weeks before the start of Ukwuachu’s 2015 rape trial, Baylor Bears defensive coordinator Phil Bennett told attendees of a luncheon that the defensive end would finally be playing in the coming season.

Ukwuachu was sentenced to six months in county jail and 10 years probation in August 2015.

10. There are more recent cases of sexual assault involving a football player and frat member.

Jacob Anderson, president of Baylor’s Phi Delta Theta chapter, was arrested in March for charges related to the alleged drugging and rape of a woman following a fraternity party. Shawn Oakman, a former defensive lineman for the Baylor Bears who had been regarded as a likely NFL pick, was arrested in April for sexual assault.

11. Starr has continued to hold up Art Briles as a model for players, even in recent days.

Despite law firm Pepper Hamilton’s findings that suggest Briles, as well as numerous other football staffers and top administrators, elevated football above student safety and pretty much all else, Starr continues to sing his praises. In anESPN interview Wednesday that NBC Sports called a “a PR disaster for Baylor,” Starr called Briles “a person of genuine character” as well as “an iconic father figure who is a genius.”

“Coach Briles is a player’s coach,” Starr said, “but he was also a very powerful father figure.”

12. Starr’s recent comments show he hasn’t learned anything from this controversy.

“We’re an alcohol-free campus,” Starr said in that same interview. “It’s not happening on campus, to the best of my knowledge. They are off-campus parties. Those are venues where those bad things have happened.”

NBC Sports responded with a drubbing so well done it deserves to be cited here:

But those bad things happened involving representatives ofyour university and football program, andyour coaches reportedly interfered with the investigation process, thus protecting them from more extreme punishment and failing to give your victims, who are students at your university, a fair chance at justice in any form possible. Just because an incident happens off your campus, does not mean you are excused from failing to uphold the investigation process and response accordingly. Your students may not live on your campus, but they are a part of your community and it is your job as a university to assure all students they can feel safe and secure while attendingyour university.

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

Photo: Attorney Kenneth Starr speaks during arguments before the California Supreme Court to overturn California’s Proposition 8 in San Francisco, California March 5, 2009.  REUTERS/Paul Sakuma