Speed Reads

Sexual misconduct revolution

Chairman of local Alabama newspaper admits spanking female reporters in the '70s, says it was doctor-approved

On Tuesday, H. Brandt Ayers, the chairman of Alabama's Consolidated Publishing and former publisher of one of its newspapers, The Anniston Star, acknowledged that he had spanked at least one female reporter in the 1970s. Former Star editor Trish O'Conner said she had received a phone call from "very, very upset" 26-year-old police reporter Wendy Sigal in 1974. "She said Brandy had been to her apartment. He told her she had been a bad girl and she needed to be spanked — and he spanked her." Ayers, who was about 39 at the time, confirmed that account, The Star reports:

Ayers claimed Sigal had been out of work because of a psychological ailment. "I called the doctor and asked what should do, and he said 'calm her down,'" Ayers said. He said he asked the doctor if spanking would work, and the doctor said yes. Ayers said Tuesday he didn't recall the name of the doctor. O'Connor and one other Star reporter said they'd never heard of management contacting employees' doctors when they were home sick in the 1970s. [The Anniston Star]

Ayers also tacitly confirmed the account of another Star reporter, Veronica Pike Kennedy, who said Ayers spanked her in the newsroom in 1975, when she was in her early 20s; another former Star reporter said he witnessed the assault on Kennedy, and two other unidentified women told The Star that Ayers had also spanked them against their wishes, with sexual overtones. Ayers, who was publisher until 2016, said he has no intention of stepping down as chairman of his family's publishing company. "Of course not," he said. "I am the third generation of a family that has served honorably, even courageously, in the public interest." You can read more at The Anniston Star.