Kenneth Starr whose Whitewater probe exposed Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky dies at 76

Starr, who served as US solicitor general under George HW Bush from 1989 to 1993, died after complications from surgery at a hospital in Houston, Texas

Kenneth Starr whose Whitewater probe exposed Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky dies at 76
Kenneth Starr (C), who exposed Bill Clinton (L) and Monica Lewinsky's (R) affair, died at 76 (DNCC handout, Jerod Harris and Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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HOUSTON, TEXAS: Former federal judge Kenneth Starr died on Tuesday, September 13, 2022, at a hospital in Houston, Dallas. Starr's inquiry into the Whitewater incident involving Bill and Hillary Clinton revealed the 42nd president's relationship with Monica Lewinsky which resulted in the impeachment of a president for the second time in American history.

Starr, who served as US solicitor general under George HW Bush from 1989 to 1993, arguing 25 cases before the Supreme Court, was 76. According to a spokesperson, he died as a result of surgical complications. Starr, who was born in Vernon and reared in San Antonio, completed his BA in 1968 from George Washington University. He obtained his MA from Brown University and his JD law degree in 1973 from Duke University. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan nominated Starr for a position in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. He held that position for nearly six years before quitting to become solicitor general, with current Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts serving as his primary deputy. According to The Post, Bush considered Starr for the Supreme Court nomination, which ultimately went to David Souter.

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Former Independent Counsel Ken Starr answers questions during a discussion held at the American Enterprise Institute September 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. Starr spoke on the topic of
Former Independent Counsel Ken Starr answers questions during a discussion held at the American Enterprise Institute on September 18, 2018, in Washington, DC (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Whitewater investigation, a comprehensive look into the Clintons' real estate dealings that also included the president's romance with Lewinsky, was given to Starr by a special three-judge panel of the DC Circuit in 1994.

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In 1998, Starr dramatically described Bill Clinton's clandestine contacts with the then-White House intern in what became known as 'The Starr Report'. “According to Ms Lewinsky, she performed oral sex on the president on nine occasions. On all nine of those occasions, the president fondled and kissed her bare breasts,” his report read. “She called him ‘Handsome’; on occasion, he called her ‘Sweetie,’ ‘Baby,’ or sometimes ‘Dear.”

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In response to articles of perjury and obstruction of justice in relation to the matter, the House, which is controlled by Republicans, swiftly impeached Clinton. The Senate acquitted Clinton in 1999. As a result of the impeachment, Starr became well-known, gaining accreditation.

Starr leaves behind his three children, nine granddaughters, and wife of 52 years, Alice Mendell Starr. “We are deeply saddened with the loss of our dear and loving father and grandfather, whom we admired for his prodigious work ethic, but who always put his family first,” his son Randall said in a statement. “The love, energy, endearing sense of humor, and fun-loving interest dad exhibited to each of us was truly special, and we cherish the many wonderful memories we were able to experience with him.”

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On September 17, 2022, Starr will be laid to rest in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.

In 2020, during the impeachment trial of then-President Donald Trump, Starr was chosen to assist in his defense more than 20 years later. “We are living in what I think can aptly be described as the ‘age of impeachment,’” he had said at the time. He added that “like war, impeachment is hell, or at least presidential impeachment is hell.” In February 2020, Trump was cleared of the articles of impeachment charging him with abuse of authority and obstruction of Congress.

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Ken Starr, personal lawyer to U.S. President Donald Trump departs the U.S. Capitol on February 3, 2020 in Washington, DC. Closing arguments begin Monday after the Senate voted to block witnesses from appearing in the impeachment trial. The final vote is expected on Wednesday.
Ken Starr departs the US Capitol on February 3, 2020, in Washington, DC (Alex Edelman/Getty Images)

Starr pursued a career in education in his latter years. He was dean of Pepperdine University's law school in Malibu, California, and then president and chancellor of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Due to a scandal regarding the school's treatment of rape and sexual assault charges against football players, he was forced to leave Baylor in 2016.

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Starr then confessed to ESPN that he was unaware of the accusations until 2015 when news stories about a player's trial first appeared in the public. “I didn’t know about what was happening, but I have to, and I willingly do accept responsibility. The captain goes down with the ship,” he had said at the time.

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