Bud Kennedy

Baylor needs more housecleaning past Briles, Starr

Republican strategist Merrie Spaeth, right, coached Kenneth Starr to change his answer, then finally ended the interview.
Republican strategist Merrie Spaeth, right, coached Kenneth Starr to change his answer, then finally ended the interview.

Baylor University’s misery continues, and deservedly so.

Former President Kenneth Starr hired an old-time Republican image consultant last week to further gloss over administrators’ role in the university rape scandal, and it backfired.

In a Waco TV interview that will become a new how-not-to lesson for communications classes, Starr went off-camera and then changed his answer about whether he read a 2015 email to university executives titled, “I Was Raped at Baylor.”

First, he told KWTX/Channel 10: “I honestly may have. I’m not denying that I saw it.”

When Dallas consultant Merrie Spaeth signaled him, he consulted with her off-camera, then was coached on-camera and finally taken away.

If only someone smart had taken the oblivious Starr and successful but secretive coach Art Briles away from Waco years ago, Baylor’s image might not need repairing today.

Now, university regents must shift the focus from Briles and the rapists and multiple suspects he sheltered — blatantly exploiting Baylor’s Christian spirit of redemption and second chances — and must reshuffle an administration that valued image and football success over victims’ suffering or women’s safety.

In the latest in a series of protests, women representing 10 victims held a silent demonstration Friday in the student center. Julieth Reyes, 19, of Fort Worth was among students sharing survivors’ stories and calling to see the regents’ entire investigation.

(A letter from the Baylor Line Foundation appears on Page 13B of the Sunday print edition or at star-telegram.com/opinion.)

The most convincing commentary has come from victims themselves, particularly two Baylor women quoted May 26 on Dallas sports talk radio.

The usual morning jokes and impersonations on KTCK/1310 The Ticket’s Dunham & Miller Show gave way to co-host George Dunham sadly telling how his niece knows two of the students who reported rapes.

“This was not a deal where it was at a party, or there was alcohol involved,” he said, the same day a Waco newspaper letter blamed women “frolicking at nightclubs.”

One expected a study session. The other needed moving help.

A university and adults they trusted “turned on them,” Dunham said, “and it’s really disheartening to her.”

When his niece sang That Good Old Baylor Line, he said, “it really did mean something to her, and that place stood for something. … She didn’t care if they went 2-10 or 10-2.”

His niece no longer wants to wear Baylor gear or fly a flag.

“And she’s not going through anything like the victims. … Those poor women. Their lives will never be the same from now until they grow old. They went through this terrible experience, and not only the trauma of that but how it was handled by the institution they loved.”

They want everyone involved gone, he said: “They have pretty good firsthand knowledge that the way this was handled was atrocious.”

It’s tough to do a makeover before the house gets cleaned.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.