Ken Starr, known for his role in the Monica Lewinsky investigation during Bill Clinton’s presidency and, more recently, for leaving high-level positions at Baylor University amid the football program’s ongoing sexual-assault scandal, is reportedly close to joining President Trump’s administration. Starr is among a handful of candidates in the running to be named ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom at the State Department.
“It’s my understanding that it’s his job if he wants it,” a person described as familiar with the vetting process told Foreign Policy.
The job entails monitoring the persecution of religious minorities, and under Trump, it is expected to focus on Christians who are under duress in majority-Muslim countries. Starr (via the Baylor Lariat) has called “education and religious liberty” his “two abiding passions.”
Starr was president of Baylor from 2010 until May 2016, when the school released a findings-of-fact report by Pepper Hamilton, an outside law firm hired to investigate allegations of rape and other abuses committed by football players and not adequately responded to by the athletic department staff and other university officials. In the wake of the report, head football coach Art Briles was fired and Baylor announced that Starr was being demoted to chancellor. He resigned from the school a few days later.
In its report, Pepper Hamilton said it found that “the University’s student conduct processes were wholly inadequate to consistently provide a prompt and equitable response under Title IX, that Baylor failed to consistently support complainants through the provision of interim measures, and that in some cases, the University failed to take action to identify and eliminate a potential hostile environment, prevent its recurrence, or address its effects for individual complainants or the broader campus community.” It also found “examples of actions by University administrators that directly discouraged complainants from reporting or participating in student conduct processes, or that contributed to or accommodated a hostile environment.”
In September, Starr said that Briles suffered a “grave and serious injustice” from reports about Baylor’s scandal by various media companies. “I have great confidence — to this day — in coach Briles,” the former president said. “If there was a question of integrity, you fire the person for cause. Art Briles was not fired for cause.”
At that time, few specifics had emerged about what Pepper Hamilton had uncovered, but in October, a report emerged that Baylor regents had been told 17 women reported incidents of sexual or domestic assault involving 19 football players — including four alleged gang rapes — since 2011. A lawsuit filed in January expanded those numbers to 52 “acts of rape” over four years by at least 31 football players.
Earlier this month, a group of Baylor regents, in response to lawsuits filed by Briles and another fired football staffer, filed a court document containing extensive allegations about efforts by the former coach and other school officials to systematically prevent incidents of player misconduct from being properly investigated and adjudicated. In the filing, Briles was said to have persuaded Starr, in an unusual move, to overturn defensive lineman Tevin Elliott’s suspension for plagiarism, one that would have made him ineligible for the upcoming football season, and to place the oversight of the player’s compliance with the terms of his probation with the athletic department, rather than the school’s Judicial Affairs office.
“That fall [in 2011], Elliott had attendance problems, was in danger of flunking his human performance class and was caught cheating on quizzes,” the filing stated. “This violated President Starr’s probation orders and Elliott’s academic plan. But two top Athletics officials shrugged it off.” Elliott, who had been reported to local police for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman before his suspension, went on to commit two rapes of Baylor students, and he was eventually sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Starr, 70, was appointed as a federal judge by President Ronald Reagan, and he served as the U.S. Solicitor General under President George H.W. Bush. He was given a broad mandate when appointed special counsel in charge of the Whitewater case involving Clinton, and eventually Starr’s Lewinsky investigation led to the president’s 1998 impeachment.
(H/T Dallas Morning News)