Updated Jan 3, 2018 12:37 PM EST
ANNISTON, Ala. — The chairman of a company that publishes six newspapers in Alabama has been accused of assaulting female employees by spanking them while he was a newsroom executive decades ago.
In reports published in Alabama news outlets, at least three women say H. Brandt Ayers, who became a nationally known voice of Southern liberalism during his tenure as editor and publisher at The Anniston Star, assaulted them in the mid-1970s, once using a metal ruler. The women and other former newsroom employees say Ayers had a reputation for spanking other women.
Ayers — now 82 and chairman of Consolidated Publishing Co., which operates six papers including The Star — issued a statement saying he “did some things I regret” when he was a “very young man with more authority than judgment.”
An online publication, Alabama Political Reporter, first reported the allegations of former Star employee Veronica Pike Kennedy. The Star later published its own account quoting Kennedy and two other women who declined to have their names published; the Montgomery Advertiser also interviewed Kennedy and cited one woman who asked to remain anonymous.
Kennedy told the Advertiser she was working as a part-time clerk in a nearly deserted newsroom on a Saturday morning more than 40 years ago when Ayers after he asked her to read one of his columns and she jokingly asked who had written it.
“And he said, ‘Oh, you are being a bad girl,'” Kennedy said. “‘You know what I do to bad girls? I spank them.”
Ayers forcibly pulled her out of a chair and whipped her with a metal ruler, Kennedy said. Kennedy said the episode led her to seek counseling years later.
“It was hard to trust anybody in authority for a long time after that,” she said. “I had anger I didn’t realize I had.”
Mike Stamler told the Advertiser he was in the newsroom that day, working on a story. He said he remembered seeing Ayers and Kennedy disagreed…