State Representative Ernest Hewett (D) just doesn’t get it. He made a repulsive sexual remark to a teenage girl who was testifying at a public committee hearing and has announced that he will not work with female interns, only males.
Sexual Harassment of Teenage Witness in Committee Hearing
A 17-year-old girl testified to the Connecticut state appropriations committee in February about the science center where she interned and mentioned that she had been shy but was now more outgoing, and that the job had helped her overcome her fear of snakes. When the chair asked if there were any questions for the witness, Hewett was the first to chime in, saying “if you are bashful, I’ve got a snake sitting under my desk here.”
Hewett claims that the comment was not intended to be sexual. He says that “what I meant to say was, if you are shy then I have an acre of land in the Everglades.”
Because of the remark he was stripped of his role as deputy speaker according to a spokesman for the Democratic caucus. Holding that post had earned him an extra $6,446 a year. He will now earn only the base legislative pay: $28,000 a year. That’s not all: more mandatory sexual harassment trainings will be held for legislators, and Hewett must meet with the Democrat female legislators.
Hewett apologized for the comment while continuing to protest that he had not intended to say anything sexual. According to Hewett, his wife jumped into the public discussion of the comment to defend her spouse with the observation that he would never say something that stupid on purpose.
But Representative Arthur O’Neill (R) said Hewett has made questionable comments before. “Rep. Hewett has a little bit of history of saying things…it’s not the first time I’ve seen his behavior raise some doubts in my mind about what his thinking was,” O’Neill told the Hartford Courant.
Here is the audio of the witness’s testimony and of Hewett’s remark:
Hewett Discriminates Against Female Interns in His Office
Hewett’s apologies and explanations sound hollow when considered alongside his policy of hiring only male interns.
As further evidence that he is living in a fantasy world where he can say and do whatever he wants to women, he offered his sexist employment practices as proof that he does not have a problem with women, as some legislators on both sides of the aisle had suggested. “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.”
It sounds like Hewett doesn’t trust himself alone with a young woman “because of stuff like that.” “I don’t want a female intern. That may sound sexist but I really don’t. That way that keeps me good and that keeps everybody else good.” He is right that he sounds sexist, even if he really doesn’t want women in his office. Unfortunately for him, there is no loophole in the anti-discrimination law for people who really want to discriminate against women.
So far he has resisted pressure from Republican colleagues to resign. But even without the lewd comment, his flouting of federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment should be reason enough for him to go. He refuses to leave because “I have people in New London I have to represent here.” Apparently it hasn’t occurred to him that someone else could take his seat and represent New London, much less that someone less prejudiced might do a better job than he has.
It’s hard to understand how Hewett has hung onto his legislative seat for so long given his alleged history of making harassing comments to women. He has sat in the legislature for eight years and is now in his fifth term as a state representative.
Hewett has two daughters. One can only imagine the shape their self-esteem will be in after being raised by a father who views females as irresistible sex objects.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
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