Alabama newspaper publisher apologizes for spanking female employees decades ago

Alabama newspaper publisher H. Brandt Ayers has apologized for spanking female employees while he was publisher of The Anniston Star newspaper in the 1970s.

Ayers, who is currently the chairman of the company that publishes the newspaper, has been accused by several women of spanking them or their colleagues, including one time when he bent a woman over a desk for being a "bad girl" and hitting her hard with a metal ruler 18 times.

According to Time:

Former reporter Veronica Pike Kennedy told the Alabama Political Reporter that Ayers spanked her with a metal ruler in the Star newsroom in February 1975. She said she was working early one Saturday when Ayers approached her about a piece of writing, and told her, “I want you to read this. This is a fine piece of writing. I’ll come back in a little while, and you can tell me what you think.”

When he came back, Kennedy recalled, she told him she liked the writing, and asked him who wrote it. In response, she said, Ayers said she was being a “bad girl” and “I’m going to have to spank you.”

She said Ayers then bent her over a desk and hit her, hard, 18 times with a metal ruler. Kennedy was 22 at the time, and Ayers was 40. “I was literally holding on to the chair,” Kennedy said. “He picked me and the chair up, and wrestled the chair out of my hands. And he started spanking me."

A former Star reporter, Mike Stamler, saw the assault from across the room, but, “I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t expecting something like that to happen.” In fact, it was common knowledge in the newsroom that Ayers spanked his female employees, but nobody felt empowered to say or do anything about it.

In response to the allegations, Ayers, now 82, said to the Star: “As a very young man with more authority than judgment, I did some things I regret. 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.”

Interesting to note that the day before, he was singing a different tune when talking to the Alabama Political Reporter: “I have no memory of the alleged incidents. Of course I intend to remain as Chairman of this company which has been the central mission of my family for three generations.”

Image: frankie m.

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