The former publisher and the current chairman of the company that publishes The Anniston Star newspaper are under fire for spanking female employees in the 1970s.
Several former female staff members have come forward to claim H. Brandt Ayers, now 82, sexually abused them while they worked in the paper's newsroom. One victim is Veronica Pike Kennedy, who says she was working at the newspaper early one Saturday morning when Ayers approached her.
Kennedy says Ayers brought up an editorial he had written then told her she was being a "bad girl" and he would "have to spank" her. Ayers then pulled her out of her and bent her over a desk where he spanked her 18 times with a metal ruler right in front of another Star reporter who backed up Kennedy's statements.
Ayers would have been in his early 40's at the time of the incident and Kennedy was 22 at the time. Several other Star staff members came forward with similar stories about Ayers "punishments".
Ayers issued a weak apology in an article on January 1, 2018, that said, "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."
The allegations were first published in an article in the Alabama Political Reporter by Eddie Burkhalter who left the Star after they refused to allow him to publish the article. Ayers is the son of the newspaper's founder, Harry Ayers, and took over as publisher of the paper in 1969 where he remained until 2016.
Ayers currently holds a position as a chairman on the board of Consolidated Publishing, the publisher of The Star, The Daily Home, and many other weekly papers.
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