A Connecticut member of the state House of Representatives has been demoted and has apologized for what many considered a lewd and inappropriate remark made to a teen girl during a committee meeting. ABC News reported March 2 that 5-time State Representative Ernest Hewett was subsequently relieved of his job as deputy speaker of the house for the comment. He also apologized for the remark he said was "taken out of context."
"I have apologized to her for what was taken out of context," he told WTNH in New Haven. "She has accepted my apology because remember, they were sitting in the room with their grandparents and they thought nothing of it." He said that if anyone thought he meant "something sexual" by the comment, didn't want to go "wherever their mind is."
In a statement released Friday, Matt Fleury, President and CEO of the Connecticut Science Center, on whose behalf the teen was testifying before the committee, said, "Representative Hewett emphatically apologized. We believe him to be sincere. We have passed his apology on to the student, and she has accepted it."
But state Republicans feel that Hewett's apology and demotion aren't enough. They have asked that he resign as a lawmaker.
Even some of Hewett's fellow Democrats were shocked by what he said. "I was shocked, admitted Mae Flexer, D-Killingly Plainfield. "My jaw dropped, I could not believe that had just come out of his mouth and directed at a 17-year-old girl."
What happened was this:
During a legislative hearing, a 17-year-old girl was telling legislators how she had overcome her fear of snakes by working at the Connecticut Science Center. A female legislator noted that it appeared that state money had been well spent, asked if there were any questions, then acknowledged Rep. Hewett.
"And if you're bashful," he laughed, "I've got a snake sitting under my desk here."
And now Hewett says his words were taken out of context. "Taken out of context" appears to be the new coverall or catchall in political speak for just about any verbal faux pas, gaffe, or ill-delivered phrasing. But how could his words not have been deemed as somehow inappropriate? Truly, in what context would saying something so suggestive been in context? Perhaps if Rep. Hewett had immediately produced a actual reptile from beneath his desk?
Or did Hewett somehow get it into his head that just because the legal age of consent in Connecticut is 16, he could get away with such a remark?
Seriously, "wherever" else did he think most minds who go upon hearing such words uttered?
He also seems to think a private and public apology can clear up the matter. He says he has plenty of support from his fellow Democrats since the scandal began. And "females, lots of females," he adds.
That remains to be seen. Being demoted as deputy speaker of the house might not be the end of Rep. Ernest Hewett's fall from political grace.