A question during News 10’s interview with former Baylor Chancellor and President Ken Starr about a rape victim’s email that was sent to his office and to several other officials led to an awkward interruption during which a well-known crisis management specialist convinced Starr to change his response.
The email, with a subject line that read, “I was raped at Baylor”, was sent by a former student who says she was raped while attending the school in 2010.
The woman, who has not been identified, told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” Wednesday morning that she did not believe Starr’s call for transparency was genuine because he never responded to her email.
KWTX anchor Julie Hays asked Starr Wednesday if he had seen it, he first responded “I honestly may have. I’m not denying that I saw it.”
After he answered, Merrie Spaeth, whom Starr had introduced as a family friend, approached KWTX News Director, Mikel Lauber, who was positioned behind the camera during the interview.
Lauber says Spaeth asked him to promise to not use that portion of the interview.
When he said no, Spaeth interrupted the interview, telling Starr as the camera continued to roll that she needed to talk to him.
When Hays tried to ask another question, Spaeth interrupted and insisted that she needed to talk to Starr.
The two then left the room.
Several minutes later they returned, and Spaeth told Hays to ask the question again, saying that she wanted to make sure the answer didn’t end up “mis-edited.”
After a few minutes out of the room, the two returned.
When Hays asked again about the email, Starr responded, “I’m honestly going to say, I have no recollection of that.”
He then turned to Spaeth and asked, “Is that OK?”
Spaeth replied, “Don’t look at me, look at her,” referring to Hays.
He then turned back to Hays who asked the question a third time.
Starr responded, “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.”
Starr, in a statement issued on Friday, reiterated that he “did not recall seeing any such email and that I believe I would remember it if I had in fact seen it.”
“During the KWTX interview, I responded in a different way. There is no discrepancy in my answers. To the contrary, the answers are entirely consistent, and they are truthful,” he said in the statement.
He said a search of his email archives after the interview Wednesday “revealed an email fitting the description” of the one about which he was asked that his office received in Nov. 3, 2015.
An office assistant forwarded the email to “the appropriate senior officer in the administration responsible for risk management and compliance,” the statement said.
“Still today, I have no recollection of having seen the email either at the time or later, until the matter was brought to my attention two days ago. In any event, the victim’s email was handled promptly by my office and in full accordance with proper protocol,” he said.
Spaeth has a long resume as a communication specialist.