Ken Starr, Once Bill Clinton’s Nemesis, Argues for Redemption

Former Whitewater independent counsel praises Clinton's legacy

Posted May 24, 2016 at 9:58am

Ken Starr, a major force behind the push to impeach President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, now says the 42nd president’s legacy is due for a reappraisal — and, in hindsight, it wasn’t so bad.  

Speaking at panel discussion on the American presidency in Philadelphia last week, Starr, now president and chancellor of Baylor University in Texas, said he regretted the taint that the Monica Lewinsky scandal left on history’s understanding of Clinton’s time in office.  

“President Clinton was, and perhaps still is, the most gifted politician of the Baby Boomer generation,” Starr said. “He just has remarkable gifts.”  

The remarks were first reported by The New York Times on Tuesday.  

Reports of Starr’s reassessment come as presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has tried to revisit some of the more sordid accusations against Clinton in an effort to discredit his wife, who is gearing up to face him in the general election. An ad Trump released Monday features the voices of three women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault.  


Trump Uses Bill Clinton’s Accusers in New Ad


A former federal judge under Ronald Reagan, Starr was appointed in 1994 to take over the congressional investigation into the failed Arkansas real estate deal involving the Clintons, known as Whitewater . That investigation morphed into the Lewinsky scandal and almost derailed Clinton’s presidency.  


#tbt: Roll Call Interviews Bill Clinton as Lewinsky Scandal Breaks


Historian Ken Gormley , who also appeared on the Philadelphia panel and wrote a book about the Starr investigation, has said that the investigation signaled the beginning of today’s divided political landscape .  

In his more recent public statements, though, Starr has called for unity. In March, for example, as GOP leaders were vowing to block the appointment of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, Starr released a statement urging them to reconsider and calling Garland a “very wise choice.”  

Contact Akin at and follow her on Twitter at @stephanieakin

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.