By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter
When one is talking about the biggest stories we didn’t cover in 2017, it’s difficult.
C’mon. If the big stories weren’t covered, how do we know? But we do, somehow, understand there were big stories we missed.
Perhaps the biggest story is disgraced former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s propensity to fondle teenage girls.
It’s a big story now, sure, but only because a team of reporters from the Washington Post uncovered it.
Supposedly, this rumor about Moore liking teen spirit has been floating around Etowah County forever. Maybe so. I worked in neighboring Calhoun County for a few years, and I never heard it. Still, credible stories emerged, and likely helped Democrat Doug Jones defeat Moore in the race for the U.S. Senate.
Moore, a sore loser, still hasn’t conceded that race, though he clearly lost. But not by much, which should lead his supporters to consider whether they backed the wrong horse.
At least nine women have come forward to say that Moore either groped them when they were teens or dated them, when Moore was in his 30s.
State media didn’t report on Moore’s infatuation with young girls; it took a team from the Washington Post to find the women involved and convince them to tell their stories.
Women who have been abused by men like Moore should be allowed to tell their stories whenever and wherever they choose, but it was important that the Washington Post drew them out at the time it did, so that Alabama didn’t elect a child molester as its U.S. senator.
That’s a big story, perhaps the biggest of the year in Alabama, and state media should have been on it before the Washington Post ever sent anybody into the state to sort it out. Still, if we weren’t going to do it, thank goodness the Washington Post did.
I find it a desperate and despicable move on Moore’s part to now point to Jones’ gay son as an issue, considering his own son has multiple drug arrests. But that’s Moore: He’s despicable. Still, what kind of father is Moore? I think we know: Homophobic, xenophobic, anti-Muslim, anti-human.
Moore is against anything that isn’t white and a teen. That’s Moore.
There were other big stories we didn’t cover, too. One, still part of the #metoo movement, involves my wife.
Supposedly, two and maybe three news outlets are working on this story, but I can’t wait them out.
My wife, before I knew her and when she was in her early 20s, was aggressively spanked by the publisher of the newspaper she worked for, the Anniston Star. H. Brandt Ayers had a fetish for spanking. May still have, even at his advanced age. And one day in the newsroom, he attacked my wife. Perhaps unknown to Ayers, there was a witness that day. My wife fought and cursed and tried to defy Ayers, but Ayers is a big man, and he overwhelmed her.
Veronica didn’t report the assault because she feared her father, who was a fiery World War II veteran, would kill Ayers.
I agree with her. Norman would have butchered Ayers, so Ayers should thank Veronica every day that he’s still alive.
But there were multiple victims of Ayers’ assaults. He got off, somehow, by spanking his women reporters and other female employees. I heard about it in the newsroom when I was a sports reporter at The Star in the late 1970s. It was talked about all the time, and women reporters were warned not to be alone with Brandy. But this was the 1970s; it was a different era. Laws protecting women from sexual harassment and assault were weak, if they existed at all.
Thank God for #metoo in 2017. Now, women can speak out, and not be afraid their remembrances will simply be discarded.
Switching from the Moore and Ayers stories, there was other news that should have been more aggressively covered.
Once again, a bill to regulate puppy mills and backyard breeders didn’t get far in the Legislature. These bills often are shuffled aside because, after all, we’re just talking about dogs.
We have a number of dogs in our house right now who are the victims of these backyard breeders or puppy mills. After their productive lives are over, they’re “set free,” to roam streets and neighborhoods of whatever town is nearby. If somebody doesn’t take them in, they get picked up by animal control.
Our Keller, a blind pug who pushed out no telling how many babies over her life, is one of them. She was captured by animal control in Cullman, and we rescued her the day she was going to be euthanized (killed), thanks to our friend Wendy Michelle Montealegre, who monitors the Cullman shelter Keller was in.
But how many animals throughout Alabama don’t have a Wendy to watch out for them? Too many. Far too many.
And this is a story we have to be better at covering. Our Legislature is not animal friendly, as indicated by the number of a proposed bills to protect nonprofit spay/neuter clinics, to make animal abuse a top priority, to save wild animals who are taken in by a veterinarian to be healed, and then are unmercifully killed by so-called “conservation” officers.
We just don’t care, but we should. Animals – our dogs, cats, raccoons, foxes, whatever – are sentient beings. They deserve our respect and protection.
Finally, another big story this year we must be better at covering is Donald Trump, the orange man.
This president is a disaster. He’s bad for America. His motto is “Make America Great Again,” but he doesn’t acknowledge that America has always been great. He’s undoing everything positive President Barack Obama put into place. He’s telling federal agencies what kind of language they can use — what they can say. Who does this? Trump is very much like the Russian hack he wants to be.
Trump is narcissistic, creepy, and a dictator-Putin-wanna-be who has sexually abused many women. I know this doesn’t bother the so-called “evangelicals” out there, but it should bother everybody else.
We need to cover the crap out of Trump, so that Trump doesn’t become what he most desires: Oligarch for life. Trump is scary, and if you — yes, even you ignorant Trump supporters — don’t see this, you’re blind, deaf, and hollow.
Trump is a danger, not only to Alabama, but to America.
We must cover this story well, and thoroughly, and with courage. Else, we fail.
Happy New Year.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]