A 17-year-old Connecticut girl went to the state legislature to advocate for a publicly-funded science program that she was involved in. She talked about the way she made friends with other hard-working teens. She talked about learning that she enjoyed working with children through the program’s mentoring activities. And she mentioned overcoming her fear of snakes. This innocuous anecdote about snakes attached to the end of her testimony prompted the most disturbing and inappropriate comment I’ve ever heard a politician make.
Democratic state Representative Earnest Hewett listened to this young woman’s story and instead of commending her for her hard work and dedication to an education activity, instead of asking her for ways that the science program could better help its participants, instead of any number of acceptable things that this man could have said, he replied, “If you’re bashful I got a snake sitting under my desk here.”
Let that sink in for minute.
In a state Senate hearing, a grown adult man made a reference to a 17-year-old girl meeting his “trouser snake.” Then he laughed, as if the joke was super hilarious. Because making young girls feel uncomfortable and sexualized when they’re talking in front of large groups of people is hillllllllarious.
Of course, after the understandable outrage his comment inspired started pouring in, Hewett gave an apology and claimed that his statement “came out wrong.” He said he was referring to an earlier portion of her testimony when the girl stated that she was shy, but had since opened up. (By the way, that does not explain the comment at all.) Hewett’s friends have stood up for him, claiming that the politician is a good guy who didn’t mean to offend anyone.
But the simple fact of the matter is that Hewett made a disgusting, lewd comment to a teenager. And at the time, he very obviously didn’t realize that it was rude or offensive. He didn’t understand that making sexual overtures to a teenager at a state budget hearing was inappropriate. And there is no world in which a man who thinks like this should be in a position of power.
Republicans in the Connecticut state legislature have called for Hewett to be officially censured, or even for his resignation. The lawmaker has already been stripped of his leadership role within the government. I believe that he should be asked to step down completely.
In politics, a single statement has brought down plenty of men and women. Just ask the Todd Akins and Richard Murdocks of the world. Earnest Hewett is no different. His comment was inexcusable and he should lose his job for it.