Several former reporters for an Alabama-based newspaper have accused an ex-publisher of sexually assaulting them in the 1970s.
According to the Alabama Political Reporter, several women who previously worked for The Anniston Star have accused H. Brandt Ayers, the paper’s former publisher, of assaulting them years earlier. One of the accusers, Veronica Pike Kennedy, claimed that Ayers slapped her 18 times with a metal ruler in February 1975 as she worked as a reporter.
Kennedy recalled Ayers giving her a story that he had written and asking her what she thought. Wanting it to run as a weekend editorial, Kennedy claimed she said the article was well written before Ayers allegedly got physical with her in the newsroom.
“He said ‘Oh, you’re being a bad girl. I’m going to have to spank you,’” Kennedy she told the local newspaper.
“I just thought he was kidding, but he started coming around the desk, and I grabbed onto the seat of my desk chair with both hands as tight as I could.”
The former Star reporter recounted fighting him off the entire time and trying to compose herself in the bathroom afterward. A male reporter who witnessed the alleged incident said he was “stunned” seeing the whole thing play out and claimed that stories of Ayers forcefully spanking female employees quickly became “common knowledge.”
“I was still determined to be a reporter after that,” Kennedy recently told The Anniston Star.
“But I hated Brandy Ayers with every cell in my body.”
The Political Reporter has identified two more female ex-employees who say they were assaulted by the then-publisher. One former reporter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, claimed Ayers spanked her in his office in the fall of 1975 after she missed a meeting.
“I just burst into tears. I was totally humiliated,” she recalled.
“He said, ‘you need to go in my bathroom and clean up before you leave.'”
Trisha O’Connor, who previously worked at the paper as a reporter and editor, came forward to recall an incident involving fellow co-worker Wendy Sigal. O’Connor said she got a hysterical phone call from Sigal saying that Ayers had just left her apartment. Upon arriving at the apartment, a friend told O’Connor that Ayers told Signal, “You’ve been bad,” and spanked her.
The newspaper’s attempts to locate Sigal, decades after she left The Star, were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, Ayers, who acts as the current chairman of the board of Consolidated Publishing, told the Political Reporter that he has “no memory” of the multiple incidents.
“Of course I intend to remain as chairman of this company which has been the central mission of my family for three generations,” he said.
However, in a statement issued Monday to The Anniston Star, Ayers said he regretted acting with “more authority than judgment” early on in his career.
He 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.”
[Featured Image: H. Brandt Ayers/Amazon]