The chairman of an Alabama newspaper company has been accused of assaulting female employees by spanking them while he was a newsroom executive years ago.
At least three women claim that H. Brandt Ayers, 82, who became a nationally known advocate for Southern liberalism during his tenure as editor and publisher at the Anniston Star, assaulted them in the mid-1970s.
Ayers is now the chairman of Consolidated Publishing Co., which operates six newspapers in Alabama, including the Star.
According to the New York Post, former Star employee Veronica Pike Kennedy told the Montgomery Advertiser her story.
Kennedy said she was working as a part-time clerk in a “nearly deserted” newsroom on a Saturday morning more than 40 years ago when Ayers asked her to read one of his columns. Kennedy jokingly asked Ayers who had written the piece.
“And he said, ‘Oh, you are being a bad girl,’” Kennedy said. “‘You know what I do to bad girls? I spank them.’”
Kennedy said that Ayers forcibly pulled her from her chair and spanked her with a metal ruler, an incident that 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, who was working in the newsroom that day, told the Advertiser he remembered seeing the assault.
“I was stunned,” Stamler said.
In a Tuesday interview with the Associated Press, Trisha O’Connor, a journalism professor at Coastal Carolina University who worked at the Star as a reporter and editor at the time, said she did not experience or witness Ayers’ misconduct, but knew of so many accounts of his assaults that she and other women advised new female employees to avoid Ayers.
“We took it to upper management and said, ‘We need assistance. This is terrible.’ Basically, from what we were able to see, nothing happened,” said O’Connor.
Ayers addressed the accusations in a statement which read, “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.”
Criminal charges cannot be filed in association with the assaults since too much time has passed since their occurrence.
Articles written by Ayers have been published in The New York Times and he was once a regular contributor to “Morning Edition” on National Public Radio.