Janet Reno, the first woman to serve as attorney general died on November 7 from complications from Parkinson’s. Ms. Reno was seventy-eight years old.
Reno’s death comes at an unusual time, the day before the 2016 presidential election. Appointed by President Bill Clinton, Reno who served as attorney general from 1993-2001, was the second longest serving attorney general after William Wirt.
Reno’s legacy includes two highly controversial events; a deadly raid on the compound of the Branch Davidian cult in Waco Texas in 1993 where four ATF agents and eighty-two Branch Davidians were killed and the government’s taking of Elian Gonzalez, a young Cuban refugee who was the subject of an international custody dispute. Reno was highly criticized for her role in these two incidents but also praised for her willingness to accept responsibility.
Reno was later accused by Republicans of protecting President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore when she refused to allow an independent counsel to investigate allegations of fundraising irregularities within the Clinton administration.
By contrast, Reno also came under fire from Clinton insiders for allowing a special counsel’s investigation into “Whitewater,” the Clinton’s failed land deal in Arkansas, to be expanded to also include an investigation into President Clinton’s sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, a situation which ultimately brought about his impeachment.
Reno, who stood six foot tall was actually Bill Clinton’s third choice for attorney general. His first two choices Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood were eliminated from consideration because they both had employed undocumented immigrants as nannies.
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