Audrey Lewis

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Audrey Lewis is a church secretary and freelance writer who was paid $11,000 to write articles expressing support for HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy which were published in the Birmingham Times during his 2005 trial. Scrushy has admitted reading her articles before publication, but characterizes it as "fact checking". According to Lewis' statement, “I sat in that courtroom for six months, and I did everything possible to advocate for his cause." Furthermore, the stories she had written before the payment deal was struck ran deep inside the paper, but the Scrushy-approved articles all ran on the front page.

Lewis works at Believers Temple Church in Wylam, pastored by Herman Henderson who became a vocal supporter of Scrushy shortly after a $25,000 donation to the church was made by Scrushy's charitable foundation. The money for Lewis' articles came from the (unrelated) Lewis Group, a public relations firm owned by Jesse Lewis Sr, founder of the Times. Scrushy paid the Lewis Group $20,000 for PR services.

Jesse Lewis' son, James E. Lewis is the current publisher of the Times. His response was “Had I known the young lady was being paid by someone, I’d have called Richard Scrushy and told him he could have bought an ad for a lot less money,”

Additionally, Scrushy's publicist Charlie Russell gave Audrey Lewis $2,500 cash to allow her to visit a sick friend in Detroit and in exchange for "community relations" services. Despite these payouts, Henderson and Lewis said that Scrushy promised more money than he actually turned over, prompting them to divulge the secret deals. Scrushy has denied that the payments were meant to engender support and accuses Henderson of extortion.

[edit] References

  • "AP: Writer paid for pro-Scrushy articles in Birmingham Times." (January 19, 2006) Birmingham Business Journal.
  • Romero, Simon and Kyle Whitmire. (January 20, 2006) "Reporter says Scrushy paid her to write favorable articles." New York Times.
  • Grow, Brian. (January 20, 2006) "Richard Scrushy's "Amen Corner"" BusinessWeek Online. [1] - accessed March 27, 2006
  • Underwood, Jerry. (January 22, 2006) "New Scrushy battle might get smelly." Birmingham News.
  • Whitmire, Kyle. (January 26, 2006) "The worst of Times: Shady dealings opened door for payola pundit." Birmingham Weekly.
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