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H. Brandt Ayers

H.Brandt Ayers

A prominent newspaper executive in Alabama has been accused of assaulting multiple female employees during the 1970s by spanking them, according to reports in Alabama news outlets this week.

H. Brandt Ayers, the former publisher of the Anniston Star and current chairman of the company that owns the Star and five other newspapers, on Tuesday admitted that he spanked at least one female reporter decades ago, claiming he was simply following a doctor’s advice.

Ayers, now 82, told the Anniston Star he spanked the woman in her home. He claimed the woman, who worked at the Star between 1973 and 1974, had been psychologically ill, and a doctor had suggested he “calm her down,” Ayers told the Star. When Ayers asked the doctor if spanking would work, the doctor said it would, Ayers said. Ayers told the Star he could not recall the name of the physician.

The Star named the woman who was spanked, saying she may now be deceased. The Washington Post does not name victims of sexual abuse who have not gone public with their stories.

Ayers also acknowledged allegations from Star reporter Veronica Pike Kennedy, who spoke publicly to the Star, the Montgomery Advertiser and the Alabama Political Reporter, that the publisher spanked her 18 times with a ruler in the Star newsroom in 1975. When asked about the alleged assault, Ayers told the Anniston Star: “Let the accusation stand.”

“As a very young man with more authority than judgment, I did some things I regret,” Ayers said in the statement to the Anniston Star. “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.”

Ayers would have been in his late 30s at the time of the 1975 incidents. 

Ayers said he had no intention of resigning as chairman of the board of Consolidated Publishing Co. “Of course not,” Ayers told the Star.