The 17 year-old student was at the hearing to ask the committee to continue a funding to the Connecticut Science Center, where she said she was “usually a very shy person” but the Center’s program enabled her to teach “children about certain things like snakes.”
When she was done testifying, Hewett told the teen “[i]f you’re bashful I got a snake sitting under my desk here.” Listen:
Hewett offered an odd explanation for his remark on Thursday, claiming that he meant to say “if you are shy then I have an acre of land in the Everglades.” He did, however, apologize for his comment.
Ernest Hewett, Connecticut State Senator, Explains Aversion To Female Interns
In defending himself over allegations that he made an inappropriate remark to a 17-year-old girl, Connecticut state Rep. Ernest Hewett (D-New London) may have dug himself into an even deeper hole.
Hewett was already under fire for telling a high school senior who had described her fear of snakes in a public hearing that, "If you're bashful, I got a snake sitting under my desk here." But when he explained to the Hartford Courant that he did not have a history of questionable behavior, he cited his lack of female interns as evidence of his clean past. He told the Courant:
"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. As a matter of fact, I went four, maybe six years without having an intern at all because of stuff like that. I have a male intern, the last two I've had were male."
He went on to say that he could not choose to hire only male interns, but would prefer not to be assigned females, because "that way that keeps me good and that keeps everybody else good."
Hewett made his "snake" remark on February 20. After audio of it surfaced this week, he was stripped of his deputy speaker title. On Saturday, the chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party called for Hewett to step down. He has apologized to the high school student (she reportedly accepted), but has said he will not resign.
What Hewett meant by his comment in the first place is still not entirely clear. He claims it simply came out wrong, and some journalists have argued that his intentions were innocent, and that the comment was merely odd, not inappropriate. Dave Weigel at Slate, for example, argues that Hewett is is "completely getting railroaded," and is the victim of an "overreaction to an errant word."