Other candidates for what is usually the Man of the Year were Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, Sen. John Glenn, baseball slugger Mark McGwire and the peacemakers in Ireland. Hillary Rodham Clinton also was a leading contender for the magazine's annual nod to the year's top newsmaker, said Walter Isaacson, Time's managing editor.
"But at decision time it came down to who, in the end, had the most impact on the way the news actually unfolded throughout the year," Isaacson wrote.
Although the decision is often made months in advance, this year the choice was not finalized until Thursday, said magazine spokeswoman Debra Richman.
Isaacson defined the Man of the Year as "the person or persons who most affected the news of our lives, for good or for ill, and embodied what was important about the year, for better or for worse."
Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and the Ayatollah Khomeini are among those named in the past.
Time's announcement came as Mr. Clinton became the second president impeached by the House and ordered to stand trial in the Senate.
"The news reinforced our decision, which we had been wrestling with until the final days," Isaacson wrote in the double-issue that appears on newsstands Monday.
He said of Mr. Clinton and Starr that their "shared obstinacy but radically different personalities and values caused them to become entwined in a sullied embrace and paired for history."
"The year drew to a close the way it had opened in January, with events being driven by what these two men had wrought," Isaacson wrote.
Time's first cover honoree was Charles Lindbergh in 1927, and last year's winner was Andrew Grove, chairman of Intel Corp. Mr. Clinton was named Man of the Year in 1992. Other honorees in the '90s include Ted Turner, Pope John Paul II and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
There was no comment from either recipient. "I think I'll pass on that one," said White House spokesman Barry Toiv.
Calls to Starr's office were not immediately returned.
Written By Diego Ibarguen