A chairman of a newspaper publishing company facing allegations of assault related to at least four women admits he spanked a female employee, but says he did so with a doctor's approval. H. Brandt Ayers—the former publisher of Alabama's Anniston Star, who now heads its publishing company—says he assaulted a reporter at her Anniston home in the 1970s when he was a "very young man with more authority than judgment," per the AP. According to 82-year-old Ayers, the woman, who died in 2006, had been out of work because of a psychological illness when he contacted her doctor, whose name he says he can't remember. "He said 'calm her down,'" Ayers tells the Star, adding he asked the doctor if spanking would be appropriate. Ayers says the doctor approved, and that he followed through in a visit to her home.
According to Veronica Kennedy, this was no isolated incident. Kennedy tells the Alabama Political Reporter she was working in the Star newsroom in February 1975 when Ayers referred to her as "a bad girl," adding, "You know what I do to bad girls? I spank them.'" Kennedy says Ayers then pulled her from a chair and spanked her 18 times with a metal ruler, an incident a male reporter recalls witnessing. A day after telling the Political Reporter he had "no memory of the alleged incidents," Ayers told the Star Monday to "let the accusation stand" in reference to Kennedy. Two other women, who remain anonymous, have described similar incidents involving spanking, while others say complaints were ignored. Ayers says he has no plans to resign simply because "I did some things I regret." The AP notes the window to file charges has closed. (Read more Alabama stories.)