A former newspaper publisher and prominent figure in Alabama has been accused by multiple female reporters of spanking them against their will, according to a report in his former paper.
H. Brandt Ayers, the publisher in the 1970s of The Anniston Star in Anniston, Ala., issued an apology in response to the allegations. He said he was a “very young man with more authority than judgment” at the time of the allegations.
Ayers was in his late 30s and early 40s at the time.
“As a very young man with more authority than judgment, I did some things I regret,” Ayers said. “At my advanced age I wish I could relive those days again, knowing the seriousness of my position and with the accumulated judgment that goes with age.”
He allegedly assaulted one woman during a Saturday shift when he thought the two were alone in the office.
But another person said he witnessed Ayers spank the woman.
Veronica Pike Kennedy told The Anniston Star that Ayers approached her and said she’d been a “bad girl” and needed to be spanked. She laughed, and then Ayers picked her up and used a metal ruler to spank her, according to Kennedy.
Two other women, who declined to give their names, told similar stories to The Anniston Star.
At one time, the treatment was so pervasive that a female staff member was appointed to warn incoming female workers of Ayers’ behavior, The Anniston Star reported.
Ayers stepped down as publisher in 2016.
He’s now the chairman of the company that publishes The Anniston Star and writes a regular column for the paper.
According to The Anniston Star, “Ayers, then and now, was among the best-known figures in Anniston, and one of the best-known small-town newspapermen in the South. After taking over as editor, then publisher of the family-run paper in the 1960s, he steered the editorial page toward advocacy for integration – a rare stance for a Southern publication at the time.”
A former journalist at the paper, Eddie Burkhalter, wrote on Twitter that he was steered away from pursuing a story about Ayers’ alleged behavior.
Burkhalter eventually resigned as a result in November.