Ken Starr is an attorney best known for his role as independent counsel in the Whitewater Investigation from 1994 – 1998. Starr, along with former President Clinton, was named Time’s Man of the Year in 1998. He served as dean of Pepperdine Law School from 2006 – 2010 and president of Baylor University from 2010 – 2016. He gave a lecture on Thursday, hosted by The Federalist Society.
Most students are too young to remember the Clinton Investigation. What was your role in the investigation?
I was serving as independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation and then other investigations that were added to my portfolio.
So it started with Whitewater and then snowballed from there?
I wouldn’t use the term snowballed. Attorney General Janet Reno asked me to take on additional matters for investigation, and I acceded to each one of her requests. Those included the travel office firings and the FBI files scandal.
Investigating a sitting president, I would assume, comes with a fair amount of pressure and scrutiny. How did you handle it?
Faith, family, and friends. I always tried to conduct myself professionally, but the going frequently got rough. I relied heavily on those three pillars.
According to various media outlets, you’ve expressed regret that you ever asked the DOJ to allow you to head the investigation. Do you regret it and why?
I think there’s been a misinterpretation. I’ve said that I regretted that the Attorney General didn’t have another readily available alternative, another individual to appoint as independent council. There were a number of reasons underlying that sentiment. First and foremost, I was eager to complete my duties and become Dean of Pepperdine Law School in Malibu. The second was the investigation enjoyed great successes including 14 criminal convictions, but it became increasingly controversial.
What advice do you have for students that are looking to go into your line of work?
Study extremely hard, but always follow your conscience. Make a prayerful decision about right and wrong. Then, hold tenaciously to what you believe is right.
Is there anything you want to tell Hillsdale students?
Give thanks that you’re at Hillsdale, and keep supporting Hillsdale when you enter the ranks of alumni. Private liberal education is always facing many challenges, and Hillsdale is showing such remarkable strength and endurance. One of the reasons it does is because of its countless friends and many thousands of alumni. Be a grateful alumnus or alumna.