Crime

Ken Starr Makes Things Worse With Bizarre Local TV Interview

Somehow, Ken Starr keeps making Baylor's expanding sexual assault catastrophe even worse. Friday morning, a Waco TV station released the full video of an interview it conducted with the school's former president on Wednesday shortly after he made the decision to resign as chancellor.
During the interview, KWTX's Julie Hays asks Starr about an email sent by a woman who says she was raped by Tevin Elliot, a Baylor football player currently serving 20 years for a separate attack. The email is addressed to Starr and, among others, Baylor's former football coach, Art Briles. At first, Starr says that he very well could've seen the email.

"I honestly may have. I’m not denying that I saw it," he tells Hays.

According to KWTX,  at that point, Merrie Spaeth, a crisis management specialist introduced to KWTX by Starr as a family friend, asked KWTX News Director Mikel Lauber to promise not to use that portion of the interview. When Lauber refused, Spaeth pulled Starr from the room.

When the duo returned, Spaeth, who also helped Starr prepare testimony during President Bill Clinton's impeachment proceedings, told Hays to ask Starr the question about the email again. Starr equivocated.

“I’m honestly going to say, I have no recollection of that,” he says in his second answer, before looking at Spaeth and asking if his answer was "OK."

Eventually, Starr gave a third, more full-throated response. 

“I honestly have no recollection of seeing such an email, and I believe that I would remember seeing such an email. The president of the university gets lots of emails. I don’t even see a lot of the emails that come into the office of the president. I have no recollection of it. None,” he says.

The Observer asked public relations specialist and former KDFW reporter Jeff Crilley his opinion of the interview. It was horrible, he says.

"It doesn't get much worse than that," he says. "We live in a 24-hour news cycle. You have to respond quickly, openly. I do believe in coaching clients, but I've never, ever interrupted an interview.

Starr would've been better served, Crilley says, if Spaeth had waited out the interview and then seen what happened in the editing process. Spaeth could've heard something the reporter didn't, Crilley says.

Spaeth, for her part, admitted late Friday that she should not have intervened, writing in an email that "our job is to help clients tell a truthful story effectively," but admitting that she made a mistake.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young