Janet Reno, former U.S. attorney general, dies at 78
MIAMI >> Janet Reno, who was the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney general but also became the epicenter of multiple political storms during the Clinton administration, died early Monday. She was 78.
Reno died from complications of Parkinson’s disease, her goddaughter Gabrielle D’Alemberte said, adding that Reno spent her final days at home in Miami surrounded by family and friends.
A former Miami prosecutor who famously told reporters “I don’t do spin,” Reno served nearly eight years as attorney general under President Bill Clinton, the longest stint in a century.
Her sister, Maggy Reno Hurchalla, told The Associated Press that Clinton called over the weekend said to “tell Janet I love her” and that many others from her career visited or called, including former Florida governor and Sen. Bob Graham. Bill and Hillary Clinton issued a statement praising Reno’s tenure and President Barack Obama called her “an American original” in his own statement.
“When Janet Reno arrived in Washington in 1993, the city had never seen anyone like her before — and hasn’t since,” Obama said. “Her legacy lives on in a generation of lawyers she inspired, the ordinary lives she touched, and a nation that is more just.”
One of the administration’s most recognizable and polarizing figures, Reno faced criticism early on for the deadly raid on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas, where sect leader David Koresh and some 80 followers perished.
She was known for deliberating slowly, publicly and in a blunt manner. Reno frequently said “the buck stops with me,” borrowing the mantra from President Harry S. Truman.
After Waco, Reno figured into some of the Clinton administration’s controversies and scandals, including Whitewater, Filegate, bungling at the FBI laboratory, Monica Lewinsky, alleged Chinese nuclear spying and questionable campaign financing in the 1996 Clinton-Gore re-election.
In the spring of 2000, Reno enraged her hometown’s Cuban-American community when she authorized the armed seizure of 5-year-old Elian Gonzalez. He was taken from the Little Havana home of his Miami relatives so he could be returned to his father in Cuba.
During her tenure, the Justice Department prosecuted the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing case, captured the “Unabomber” Theodore Kaczynski that same year and investigated the 1993 terrorist attack on New York’s World Trade Center. The department also filed a major antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft Corp. and Reno was a strong advocate for protecting abortion clinics from violence.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch praised Reno’s integrity, and called her a trailblazer and “one of the most effective, decisive and wellrespected leaders” in Justice Department history.
Lynch said Reno applied one test: “to do what the law and the facts required. She accepted the results of that test regardless of which way the political winds were blowing.”
Miami U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer, who worked for Reno in Washington from 1995-2000, said, “Even if you agreed or disagreed with her, you knew she was coming from a place of integrity.” He added, “Through her work, through her decisions, she exhibited a lot of strength and a lot of courage.”