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Inappropriate Remark Cost Lawmaker His Leadership Position

by Christine Stuart | Mar 1, 2013 6:29am
(13) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Town News, New London

(Updated 1:25 p.m.) House Speaker Brendan Sharkey removed a veteran lawmaker from his leadership position Thursday for an inappropriate remark he made last week during a budget hearing.

Rep. Ernest Hewett of New London, a deputy speaker and member of the Appropriations Committee, told a 17-year-old girl on Feb. 20 that if she was shy then he had a live snake for her under his desk. The girl, an intern with the Connecticut Science Center, talked about being shy and overcoming her fear of snakes during her testimony.

“And if you’re bashful I’ve got a snake sittin’ under my desk here,” Hewett told the girl, according to the audio of the hearing.

“I’m sorry,” Hewett said Thursday in a phone interview.

He said he apologized to Matt Fleury, president of the Connecticut Science Center on Thursday and told him he would like to apologize to the young woman.

“Neither the student, her family members nor I clearly heard Representative Hewett’s comment and we were unaware that anything that could be perceived as offensive had been said until reading news accounts,” Fleury said in a statement Friday.

“We have passed his apology on to the student, and she has accepted it,” Fleury said. “We are honoring her desire to maintain her privacy.”

He said he honestly meant nothing by the remark except to point out that the girl had gotten over her shyness and fear of snakes. However, he admitted he could understand how it would be misinterpreted.

Sharkey reviewed the above audio before making his decision. According to sources, the sexual innuendo was too obvious to ignore.

Losing his leadership will cost Hewett $6,440 a year, bringing his pay down to $28,000.

In addition to removing Hewett from his position, Sharkey ordered all House Democrats except for freshmen and sophomores, who have just had the sexual harassment training, to go through it again. That decision was made last week, just two days after Hewett’s remarks.

On Tuesday, Hewett, who has been in politics for 18 years, will meet with female lawmakers to talk about his actions.

One female legislator who heard Hewitt last week said those types of comments are all too common in the state Capitol and something needs to be done to put an end to sexual harassment in the building.

Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, who was co-chairing the Appropriations Committee when Hewett made the remarks, said Friday that as lawmakers “we’re not allowed to make those types of mistakes.’

She said Hewett used poor judgment in choosing his words that night.

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(13) Comments

posted by: Fisherman | March 1, 2013  7:59am

It always surprised me that the VOTERS hadn’t stripped this guy of his “title” as “Representative” years ago, after he took Susette Kelo’s house through Emanate Domain!

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | March 1, 2013  9:32am

DrHunterSThompson

Mark Twain once said, it’s a man with a poor imagination that can spel a word only one way.

HST

posted by: Noteworthy | March 1, 2013  9:35am

“One female legislator who heard Hewitt last week said those types of comments are all too common in the state Capitol and something needs to be done to put an end to sexual harassment in the building.”

In a sentence, I now understand the Connecticut Legislature, the old tired plan to tax endlessly and relentlessly, the liquor laws, the failure to regionalize and now believe it or not, sexual harassment. They go to Hartford and go back in time to the Caveman and dinosaur days. Charmed.

posted by: JAM | March 1, 2013  5:32pm

The loss of a Deputy Speaker! OMG how will the place function?

posted by: Historian | March 1, 2013  6:58pm

Ridiculous.  The girl had just stated that she had gotten over her fear of snakes by working at the center and Mr.Hewitt made a teasing remark that he had a snake under her desk to test her - a remark prompted, no doubt by boredom.  Only hysterical or even worst, racist minds would see anything more to this. I am sure many real life lynching occurred under the same kind of circumstance.. Shame on you all.  PS - I am white..

posted by: AntonK | March 1, 2013  8:54pm

Out: War on women. In: War on girls.

posted by: ASTANVET | March 1, 2013  9:49pm

For those of us who work in the public, I would say that he acted stupidly.  Whether he meant it, or not, you have to be aware of your surroundings and your comments.  He deserves his punishment, and then some - for being that unaware as to how he would be later quoted.  On a side note, if I were that young lady’s dad - I may have a thing or two to say to the distinguished representative…. behind closed doors.

posted by: CharlieH | March 2, 2013  8:12am

After hearing the entire testimony, the comment appears to be a clumsy attempt at complimenting her for overcoming her shyness.

posted by: Angus | March 2, 2013  8:37am

What is Mr Hewitt’s party affiliation? I often wonder if J school teaches that if you are reporting transgressions of Democrats that you needn’t mention their party because everyone already knows only a Democrat would do such a thing. Of course, that would be a foolish reason but what other reason is there? In my experience readers are never left in doubt concerning party affiliation when members of other parties transgress. Is this a conscious act by reporters?

posted by: BethyGuiles | March 2, 2013  7:47pm

this is so petty. i know darn well “Hewitt” was referrring to nothing more than a “snake”. some folks just take things way out of hand. i doubt very much this man would sexually harrass a 17 year old child..come on really? they wanted him out the position…this was their chance…what a darn shame!

posted by: 17beachboy | March 5, 2013  3:36pm

if this elected official was a Republican, the people and his fellow elected officials who were Democrats would have rose up by the thousands and demanded his resignation.

posted by: TheArchitect | March 5, 2013  4:27pm

TheArchitect

Why are we just now learning about Rep. Hewett’s problem in being able to conduct himslef properly with young girls?  I’m glad Rep. Flexer is standing up to him now, but shouldn’t more have been done way before now?  They knew this guy was filthy with little girls and instead of handling they tried to avoid it by simply not assigning him female interns.  How many other girls were harassed before they made that determination?

posted by: BethyGuiles | March 5, 2013  9:42pm

OH PLEASE, do you people honestly think this “black” man would sit in front of the General Assembly at a public hearing in front of 100’s of people and make a comment to a 17 year old teenager that he was referring to his “penis” as the “snake” under his desk? Get real! They know this man would NOT risk his position! I know him and he’s NOT like that…..half of them women just want this man in their bed! He is a happily married with children! (grown children)....and with crap like this happening, i wouldn’t want no dam women intern either….women are just as evil as men…they gang up on you when they want you out of a position..JUST BECAUSE!