The Deputy Speaker of the Connecticut State House was stripped of his title this week after he made an allegedly lewd remark during an exchange with a 17 year-old intern from the Connecticut Science Center.
An audiotape of the incident, which was not available on Thursday Evening, apparently revealed that the teenage girl said working at the science center helped her to overcome her fear of snakes, to which State Rep. Ernest Hewett (D-New London) reportedly made reference to having a snake under his desk top.
Subsequently, state House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey (D) stripped Hewett of his deputy speaker title Wednesday, including the $6,446 in extra pay above the rank-and-file rate of $28,000.
“After I first heard about it, I thought maybe in the broader sense maybe he was misunderstood and it may not be that big a deal,” Sharkey said. “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.”
Describing the incident as “disturbing,” Sharkey said, “The public needs to know this is an environment where they will be respected. That kind of language shouldn’t be used in any public setting.”
Hewett, a former mayor of New London and a veteran lawmaker, said he meant no sexual innuendo and that his comment was an example of “the kind of crazy analogies I use to try to make a point.”
“Like, sometimes I’ll tell someone, ‘If you believe that, then I have an acre of land in the Everglades to sell you.’ It came out the wrong way… it had nothing to do with sex, in my mind, but I can understand how people would think that by hearing it,” he claimed.
Hewett publicly apologized to the teen girl and to his legislative colleagues.