Connecticut State Rep. Ernest Hewett (D) apologized on Thursday for telling an unidentified 17-year-old girl that he had a “live snake under this desk” during her testimony at a hearing (audio below).
“I want to personally apologize to the young lady for the comments that I made,” Hewett told The New London Day newspaper after he was stripped of his position as deputy speaker.
Hewett will lose $6,446 in extra pay as a result of losing his position.
The teen 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. I want to do something toward that, working with children when I get older.”
After her statement, Hewett reportedly said: “If you are shy, then I have a live snake under this desk.”
He later said that he meant to say, "If you are shy then I have an acre of land in the Everglades."
"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," Speaker of the House J. Brendan Sharkey told the Connecticut Post.
“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.”
Matt Fleury, President of the Connecticut Science Center, released a statement 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.”