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Former newspaper publisher admits to spanking young reporter, implies it was for her own good

H. Brandt Ayers, the former publisher of The Anniston Star in Alabama, seen in a 1994 interview on C-SPAN.

The former publisher and current chairman of the board for The Anniston Star, a local newspaper in Alabama, has acknowledged accusations that he went to the home of a young reporter and spanked her against her will in the 1970s. H. Brandt Ayers, the son and grandson of the family-owned newspaper, admitted to assaulting reporter Wendy Sigal, who was in her 20s, but claimed that a doctor had told him to do it. Ayers also declined to defend himself against accusations that he spanked another young reporter, then 25-year-old Veronica Pike Kennedy, in The Star newsroom in 1975. At the time, Ayers would have been around 40 years old.

Speaking to The Star, two other women had said that Ayers had spanked numerous other women against their will. Asked about the claims, some of the other women said they recalled another victim, Wendy Sigal, who went to works as a police reporter for The Star at age 25 after stints with The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. Former Star editor Trisha O’Connor confirmed the account, and recalled receiving a call from Stigal after the alleged assault.

“She was very, very upset,” said O’Connor. “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.”

O’Connor added that other former reporters had complained about Ayers’ behavior, but that editors did nothing to help. Instead, she said, women in the newsroom would warn each other to keep their distance from him.

According to Ayers, his intentions were purely altruistic. Sigal, he said, had been going through psychological difficulties, and he had asked a doctor whether he thought a spanking would help “calm her down.” The doctor, whose name Ayers said he has since forgotten, purportedly told the newspaper publisher that a spanking would indeed help the situation. Asked about the claim that he spanked Kennedy, Ayers replied, “Let the accusation stand.”

Speaking with The Star, Ayers made bold claims about his legacy as a publisher, while his wife, the vice-chairman of the paper, appeared to show little sympathy for the alleged victims. Ayers also vowed that he wouldn’t resign and explained why he had no intention of doing so.

Read the full story at The Anniston Star.

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