Daily News Digest – January 2, 2018

Daily News Digest – January 2, 2018

1. Longtime Anniston Star publisher Brandt Ayers accused of spanking women employees

 

Longtime Anniston Star publisher H. Brandt Ayers is being accused of assaulting female employees. Two former Star employees have come forward with detailed accounts of humiliating, painful instances in which Ayers spanked them in the workplace. 

The Montgomery Advertiser’s Brian Lyman has a thorough, well-sourced story about the accusations and Ayers’ background as an influential voice in journalism and state politics. It is well worth your time to read top to bottom.

It’s not just about Ayers

  • As publisher of The Star for more than 50 years, Ayers’ accrued considerable influence, not just in the Anniston community, but around the state. He built the paper he inherited from his father into a liberal force that has been a thorn in the paw of many politicians over the years. But, this story isn’t just about Ayers. 
  • It’s about assault and sexual misconduct. The last year has revealed just how pervasive a problem sexual assault and misconduct is in this country. From Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein to Matt Lauer and Al Franken, the #MeToo movement is exposing uncomfortable truths and causing a cultural shift in how we think about this issue. Let’s not forget that the special election for the U.S. Senate was turned on its head after credible allegations of sexual misconduct against Roy Moore were reported by The Washington Post
  • It’s about the systemic protection of powerful creeps. Lyman’s sources make it clear that this type of behavior (spanking, calling female employees “bad girls”) was common knowledge in the newsroom, perhaps for decades. When your HR session with new female employees includes information on how to avoid being spanked by the boss, you have a problem. That’s obviously not unique to The Star.

What’s next

  • Ayers officially retired as publisher more than a year ago but remains chairman of Consolidated Publishing, which owns The Star. It will be interesting to see what happens with that business relationship given this revelation. 
  • Ayers still writes a column that is published in various Alabama papers, including The Star.  With this news and his advancing age, look for those pieces to become less frequent or stop altogether. 

Can’t make this up

  • Ironically, one of Ayers’ latest opinion pieces is about President Trump and the Republican Party being “mean, arrogant bull[ies].” Seriously. Go read it.  

 

2. Dale Jackson joins YellowHammer

Popular talk radio host Dale Jackson has joined YellowHammer News as a contributor and commentator. Scoring Dale Jackson is the latest move in the conservative news site’s continued expansion in the post-Cliff Sims era.

  • I’ve always really liked Dale. Actually, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Dale. Even the politicians he has picked on over the years appreciate his up-front attitude and friendly demeanor.
  • Look for Dale Jackson to do big things for YellowHammer as they expand their statewide political coverage.
  • According to the announcement, Dale will publish “Seven things you should be talking about today.” Speaking as someone who recently got into that sort of thing, let me say, the more the merrier!

3. As Congress returns, an Alabama math problem awaits

  • Congress returns to work this week for the second session of the 115th Congress. Its plate is full of issues to deal with, including many important to Alabama: how to fun the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) over the long term, what to do about the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and how to fund the military after multiple frustrating stop-gap spending bills. 
  • As Congress reconvenes, a new math problem awaits them: thanks to the Alabama special election to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, there is one fewer Republican vote in the Senate
  • Senator-elect Doug Jones is set to be sworn in on Wednesday. Once Jones is seated, the GOP Majority will shrink to a razor thin 51-49 seat margin. 
  • Even with the 52-seat majority, Senate Republicans have not had an easy time. Defections from Sen. John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski doomed the Obamacare repeal effort, and Vice President Mike Pence has had to stand at the ready to cast a tie-breaking vote on multiple occasions. 
  • It remains to be seen whether Jones will be open to bucking his party to vote for GOP bills or just to allow a vote to proceed. He claims to want to “reach a consensus to try to get some things done.”
  • In any case, with Jones’ arrival, Democrats have improved their negotiating position on the aforementioned issues. 

4. Bentley: I chose to walk away

  • Former Governor Robert Bentley told Times-Daily, Decatur DailyReporter Mary Sell that he chose to resign from office after learning that he would be charged with a felony.
  • That makes sense because,  if convicted of a felony, he would lose his medical license.
  • Bentley recently opened a dermatology practice in Tuscaloosa and released an almost-surreal Facebook video announcing the new venture.
  • Look, I think we should all resolve to let this story go away in 2018. But, resolutions really don’t start until a day or two into the new year, right? S0 go read Mary Sell’s story top to bottom right now.