A Connecticut lawmaker apologized on Thursday for telling a 17-year-old girl that he had “a snake sitting under my desk” during her testimony at a committee hearing.
“I want to personally apologize to the young lady for the comments that I made,” State Rep. Ernest Hewett (D) told The New London Day newspaper after he was stripped of his position as deputy speaker over the remark. Hewett will lose $6,446 in extra pay as a result of losing his position, lowering his salary to that of other state representatives, $28,000.
The unnamed teenager testified on Feb. 20 about the Connecticut Science Center, saying her internship there had helped her overcome her fear of snakes. “I am usually a very shy person, and now I am more outgoing,” she told the committee. “I was able to teach those children about certain things like snakes that we have and the turtles that we have,” she said. “I want to do something toward that, working with children when I get older.”
After her remarks, 56-year-old Hewett said, “If you are shy, then I have a live snake under this desk.”
Speaker of the House J. Brendan Sharkey told the Connecticut Post that he ordered sexual harassment training for all House Democrats who have been in the House longer than two terms after learning of Hewett’s remarks. Sharkey also requested a meeting with all female members of the House Democrats and Hewett.
“But based on the audio, it’s hard to interpret it that way. It’s hard for anyone who heard the audio or was there to think it was anything other than a sexual innuendo,” Sharkey told the Post.
Matt Fleury, president and chief executive officer of the science center, released a statement on the events on Thursday. “Neither the student, her family members nor I clearly heard Rep. Hewett’s comment and we were unaware that anything that could be perceived as offensive had been said until reading news accounts. Tonight I called Rep. Hewett, who emphatically apologized. We believe him to be sincere. We have passed his apology on to the student, and she has accepted it.”
Listen to the audio of the hearing, below.
(h/t Political Wire)
Photo via official website