Conn. lawmaker stripped of title over perceived lewd remark to teen

A state lawmaker has issued an apology and been stripped of his leadership title over what some perceived as a lewd remark to a 17-year-old girl on the House floor.

State Rep. Ernest Hewett made reference to "a snake" under his desk as he addressed the girl at a budget hearing last week. He has said his remark came out wrong and he understands how it could be misconstrued.

The girl, a high school senior, had been testifying in support of funding for the Connecticut Science Center's youth programs, which she said helped her to get over a fear of snakes. One lawmaker told her she was a good spokeswoman for the center and asked if there were any questions.

"If you're bashful I got a snake sitting under my desk here," Hewett then said. Laughter at his remark from those in the room is heard in an audio tape of the exchange.

Hewett, a five-term Democrat from New London, said his words did not come out as intended. He told The Day of New London, "What I meant to say was, if you are shy then I have an acre of land in the Everglades."

The remark was deemed to be sexually harassing by House Democrats, who on Thursday took away Hewett's title as deputy speaker. State Republican Party chairman Jerry Labriola on Friday called for Hewett to resign, calling the remark "a disgrace and an embarrassment."

The president of the science center, Matt Fleury, said Friday he had passed an apology from Hewett on to the girl and she had accepted it.

Fleury said he was in the audience for the hearing, along with the girl's mother and grandmother, but none of them heard Hewett clearly and were unaware he said anything that could be seen as offensive until reading news accounts.