“I got a snake sitting under my desk here,” says the 56-year-old man to a 17-year-old girl.
How would you interpret this remark as other than lewd?
To add to the disgusting factor, the 56-year-old man is a member of the Connecticut State Assembly, repeatedly reelected to “serve” the 39th Assembly District of New London, CT.
The AP reports from Hartford, Conn., March 2, 2013, that CT State Rep. Ernest Hewett made reference to “a snake” under his desk as he addressed the girl at a budget hearing last week.
The girl, a high school senior, had been testifying in support of funding for the Connecticut Science Center’s youth programs, which she said helped her to get over a fear of snakes. One lawmaker told her she was a good spokeswoman for the center and asked if there were any questions.
“If you’re bashful I got a snake sitting under my desk here,” Hewett then said. Laughter at his remark from those in the room is heard in an audio tape of the exchange.
The five-term Democrat has issued an apology, saying his remark came out wrong and he understands how it could be misconstrued but that his words did not come out as intended. Hewett told The Day of New London, “What I meant to say was, if you are shy then I have an acre of land in the Everglades.”
The remark was deemed to be sexually harassing by House Democrats, who on Thursday took away Hewett’s title as deputy speaker, to which he had been named as recently as Jan. 11, 2013. State Republican Party chairman Jerry Labriola on Friday called for Hewett to resign, calling the remark “a disgrace and an embarrassment.”
The president of the science center, Matt Fleury, said Friday he had passed an apology from Hewett on to the girl and she had accepted it. Luckily, neither the girl nor her mother and grandmother who were all at the hearing heard Hewett clearly and were unaware he said anything that could be seen as offensive until reading news accounts.
But Hewett refuses to resign, reports Kevin Webb for Atlanta Black Star, March 3, 2013. He also denies having a history of similar behavior or problems although a fellow legislator, Rep. Arthur O’Neill (R-Southbury), told the Hartford Courant that “Rep. Hewett has a little bit of history of saying things … it’s not the first time I’ve seen his behavior raise some doubts in my mind about what his thinking was.”
But Hewett, while speaking with the Courant, did reveal a preference towards male interns, suggesting that his professionalism around women is questionable.
“I purposely will not have female interns. My intern now is a male. I want to keep it like that. I’ve had female interns in the past that sit in my office all day. I thought it was totally weird and I didn’t want another,” Hewett said.
When asked if he chose to only have male interns, he said that it wasn’t his choice: “They may give me a female, but I don’t want a female intern. That may sound sexist but I really don’t. That way that keeps me good and that keeps everybody else good.”
Defending a sexist statement made in public by describing a potentially sexist professional practice, will likely land Hewett in even further trouble with state representatives and voters.
A welder at General Dynamics before he began a more lucrative career in politics, Hewitt’s bio on CT.gov says “Rep. Hewett is a 32 Degree Master Mason.”