After 20 Years, Former Ken Starr Advisor Reveals Her Boss Was a Pretty Bad Guy

Judi Hershman slammed Starr for his role in some of the worst chapters in contemporary politics, but she's complicit too.

After 20 Years, Former Ken Starr Advisor Reveals Her Boss Was a Pretty Bad Guy
Image:Win McNamee (Getty Images)

Judi Hershman, a former advisor of the conservator attorney Ken Starr, is ready to get some shit off her chest.

In a Medium post published Monday, Hershman expounded on her frustration with Trumpism and its followers—namely her former employer, whom she accused of being a catalyzing force behind some of the worst chapters in contemporary politics. She points to Starr’s central role in the Clinton impeachment investigation as well as his participation in the sweetheart deal granted to convicted pedophile Jeffery Epstein as two of the most notable examples.

“It took me 20 years to pull my head out of the proverbial sand, but I can see clearly now all the harm Ken Starr has done from the 1990s and now beyond as he reaches for Mike Pence’s presumed coattails,” Hersman said, referring to Starr’s plans to appear this weekend at the annual Family Leadership Summit, where the former vice president will also be speaking.

Hershman’s lays out the receipts of Starr’s deviousness quite plainly, beginning with an anecdote about Starr and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh was just a lawyer when Hershman met him 20 years ago, when they were both working with Starr on the investigation into President Clinton’s relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Hershman, who helped prep Starr present his findings before Congress, recalled an incident in which a furious Kavanaugh began “badgering” her and “invading” her space, pointing his finger in her face and seething.

Hershman confided in Starr about the ordeal, believing Kavanaugh’s “deranged fury” might be cause for concern, but Starr defended him instead.

From Medium:

Starr reacted with seeming surprise, saying Brett was probably being protective of him, and moreover was destined for great things — possibly the Supreme Court. “Not if he treats women like that he won’t,” I replied. I then asked Ken to seek an apology from Brett on my behalf and was told, “I’m apologizing to you for him. This is it.”

Hershman contacted three senators about the incident, but that only stalled the proceedings briefly, rather than stopping anything. Hershman went public with her story in 2018, shortly after Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. But when Starr was asked to comment on the incident between Hershman and Kavanaugh, he claimed to have no memory of the incident.

But by that point, Hershman was already disillusioned by the man she once considered a mentor.

For starters, she was familiar with his hypocrisy when it came to his public embrace of conservative family values. Hershman alleged that she had a year-long affair with Starr beginning in 2009, though she said she’s skeptical he’ll admit to it, lest he damage his pious reputation ahead of the conservative Christian conference. She said the affair “ran its course” after about a year, and she remained his adviser thereon.

Emphasis ours:

Early one evening [on vacation in Tuscany,] while our spouses were at dinner elsewhere, Starr had stepped out from the shadows of the grounds of the inn where we were staying and called me over. After expressing his feelings for me, he pulled me into an embrace. This was the beginning of a fond, consensual affair that I had every intention of taking to the grave… When I had drawn back from that first kiss in Italy, I noticed that [former ABC reporter Tim] O’Brien was looking at us from the balcony above. Though I can’t be sure O’Brien could see that Starr had taken my hand and placed it on his crotch, there can be little doubt that he saw the kiss Starr had initiated. And when I expressed to Ken my horror at having been observed, he had said, “It’s O.K., he understands.”

But rather than focus on her relationship with Starr, Hershman spends most of her piece talking about his more egregious ethical breaches, like his association with Epstein, the billionaire mogul who was arrested two years ago on sex trafficking and abuse charges against dozens of young girls and women. Epstein had brushes with the law before his 2019 arrest, and Starr was intimately involved in getting him out of trouble the first time. Hershman recalled:

I confess I did not recognize Jeffrey Epstein’s name at the time, but I knew what statutory rape was and I couldn’t understand why Ken Starr would be involved with him. […] It did not occur to me that he might have been part of the legal team that executed a secret and egregious sweetheart deal for the convicted pedophile or that the stickler for details I knew Starr to be might be grossly undercounting the victims in question. “Everyone deserves representation, Judi,” he said, adding, “He promised to keep it above 18 from now on.” According to an alleged victim statement after the fact, the middle-aged, child molestor, Jeffrey Epstein, did not keep his sex with girls above the age of 18.

It was a retrospective look at Starr’s firing from Baylor University, however, that acted as Hershman’s apparent “a-ha, he’s an asshole” moment. Starr was the president of the Texas college when he was fired in 2016 following allegations that he mishandled sexual assault allegations from multiple women involving football players. Even then, Hershman was “running interference” for Starr.

Fast forward four years later…

It was an interview I watched in 2020 with one of Baylor’s aggrieved accusers that helped me understand how I could have been blind for so long to the pattern of misogyny coursing through Starr’s career. Describing a meeting with Starr about her ordeal, she said that he shed a tear along with her, made her feel heard, but did nothing to help get justice for her or the many other female students who came forward with allegations.

Hershman also owned up to feeling uncomfortable with Lewinsky’s treatment during the Clinton impeachment. “At my core during the Clinton impeachment I knew that what the Starr team was doing to a young woman not much older than 18 was wrong, yet I fell for Starr’s mantra,” she wrote in Monday’s post. But she was complicit, in Lewinsky’s trauma and in those of the countless other women who followed.

Why did it take the boorishness of the Trump era to give Hershman a wake-up call that was apparently 20 years in the making and supported by more than enough repulsive acts by her mentor and his associates? Better late than never, but try telling that to the women whose lives she helped compromise.

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