The former publisher of The Anniston Star in Alabama resigned on Thursday as chairman of the company that owns the newspaper after admitting that he spanked a reporter in the 1970s.
The former publisher, H. Brandt Ayers, told the newspaper that it was “in the best interests of the paper and its mission” to step down from the board at its parent company, Consolidated Publishing. But his family will retain control of the company, which also owns five other publications, and his wife will take over as chairwoman of the board.
“It is of utmost importance to me that this newspaper continue to serve its role of reporting on matters of concern to the Anniston community and that nothing stand in the way of preserving the newspaper as an independently owned publication serving this community,” Mr. Ayers said in his statement to The Star. He could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
His resignation came after several former reporters accused him in recent days of sexual misconduct — allegations that brought about a swift downfall for Mr. Ayers, who led The Star during the civil rights era as a rare liberal in the South. After taking over The Star from his father in the 1960s, Mr. Ayers wrote editorials denouncing bigotry and advocating school integration.
In an article published on Monday, a former reporter for The Star, Veronica Pike Kennedy, told the newspaper that Mr. Ayers spanked her against her will on a Saturday in 1975 when there were few people in the building.
“I was still determined to be a reporter after that,” Ms. Kennedy, who worked at the newspaper in her 20s, told The Star. “But I hated Brandy Ayers with every cell in my body.”
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