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Kenneth Starr shows how flamboyantly pious have so much further to fall

That Starr is a world-class sexual hypocrite has long been obvious.

Kenneth Starr in 1998.
Khue Bui/AP

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 University, 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.”

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