GOP Leader Launches Petition Seeking Hewett's Resignation For 'Snake' Remark
Mar 05, 2013 (The Hartford Courant - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
State Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. launched an online petition Monday to press for the resignation of state Rep. Ernest Hewett over what was taken as a lewd remark that he made to a teenage girl at a Feb. 20 public hearing.
Last week, Hewett rejected a call from Labriola to resign. Monday, the GOP chief raised the ante: He had his staff set up a petition on the website ipetitions.com, then put out an emailed press release calling attention to it.
Hewett, a New London Democrat, couldn't be reached Monday.
The petition says that Hewett "made an offensive and sexually harassing remark to a 17-year-old intern during a committee hearing. The intern had been explaining to the committee that her experience [at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford] helped her to conquer her shyness and also 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."
"According to an audiotape of the hearing, Hewett said: 'If you're bashful, I got a snake sitting under my desk here.'"
The petition concluded: "Representative Hewett's offensive remark was a disgrace and an embarrassment. The fact that it was made to a 17-year-old intern visiting the State Capitol to attend a public hearing sends an absolutely atrocious message. Therefore, by signing below, I join in calling on State Representative Ernest Hewett to resign following his wildly offensive comment made to the young girl at the State Capitol."
People could "sign" the petition by typing in their name and email on the website, or by using Facebook. As of 7 p.m., the website said there were more than 1,300 signatures.
Last week, after listening to a recording of Hewett's remark, Democratic House Speaker Brendan Sharkey removed Hewett's title as deputy speaker and the $6,446 in extra pay that came with it above the base annual salary of $28,000 for a legislator.
Hewett said last week that he meant nothing sexual by his attempt at humor, but admitted he could see how someone could take it that way. Hewett called it an example of "the kind of crazy analogies I use to try to make a point. Like, sometimes I'll tell someone, 'If you believe that, then I have an acre of land in the Everglades to sell you.' ...It came out the wrong way."
Hewett publicly apologized to the girl, and on Friday, Matt Fleury, CEO of the science center, issued a statement saying the girl has accepted the apology.
However, two legislators were still critical of Hewett, and suggested that he has exhibited inappropriate behavior in the past. Hewett denied that on Friday, saying: "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. ... 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."
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