Jon Lender reports that House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey has decided to remove state Rep. Ernest Hewett from his position as deputy speaker of the house because of lewd comments he made to a 17-year-old girl after she testified at a public hearing last week. Hewitt, a Democrat, will remain as a state legislator from New London.
That’s enough punishment for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, his spokesman Andrew Doba said Thursday night:
The Speaker’s decision was appropriate and I’m sure the Representative regrets the comments.
Hewett was among lawmakers sitting at one of the wide desks at the front of the Appropriations Committee hearing room in the Legislative Office Building on Feb. 20, when a girl testified in favor of funds for the Connecticut Science Center. She said that her work as an intern there had helped overcome shyness and a fear of snakes.
As she finished testifying, the committee’s co-chairwoman, Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, told the girl that she didn’t seem shy. And that’s when Hewett chimed in. As he recalled it, in a telephone interview Thursday night, he said into the microphone: “If you’re shy, then I have a snake under this desk.”
No recording of the remark was available Thursday night.
Hewett said he meant no innuendo, adding that it 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. … In my heart I know what I meant, and it wasn’t that.”
Courant editorial writers, meanwhile, also can’t quite bring themselves to call for Hewitt to resign.
UPDATE: This morning, the CEO of the Science Center, Matt Fleury, released this statement:
A participant in one of the Connecticut Science Center’s youth programs volunteered to testify on the Science Center’s behalf at a recent public hearing. I was in the audience with her and her mother and grandmother.
She spoke effectively, after which there were some affirming comments from members of the panel. 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.
Tonight I called Representative Hewett, who emphatically apologized. We believe him to be sincere. We have passed his apology on to the student, and she has accepted it.
We are honoring her desire to maintain her privacy.