“That May Sound Sexist,” Says Guy Who Won’t Hire Women

LTB logo

You know, it kind of does, when you think about it.

State Rep. Ernest Hewett of Connecticut (D-New London) has been under fire for a while now because of a comment he made during a hearing last month. The hearing had to do with funding for the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford, and a high-school girl was testifying about her great experience as a "teen ambassador" there for the past two years. Among other things, she said this:

I'm usually a very shy person, and now I'm more outgoing… I was able to discover that I really love working with children. It was so much fun for me. I was able to teach little children about certain things, like snakes that we have…. And just the kids — they're just great…. And I never liked snakes, but I ended up loving them.

The committee's co-chairwoman then said this:

That's very good. you're a great spokeswoman for the Connecticut Science Center. It seems like a good investment for the state. Are there any questions? Yes, Representative Hewett.

And Representative Hewett then said this:

If you're bashful, I've got a snake sittin' under my desk here.


Some have suggested that this was a sexual innuendo, which he denies. He was just making an analogy, he says, along the same lines as: "if you believe that, I've got some land in the Everglades I'd like to sell you." (He doesn't actually have land in the Everglades.) In other words, according to him he meant something like this:

If you're bashful, [then] I've got a snake sittin' under my desk here.

And, taking the absence of a real snake here as a given, then it follows that all will understand the actual import of my remark to be that I believe you not to be bashful. Or, where B represents the state of you being bashful and S the presence or non-presence of any member of the suborder Serpentes beneath my desk, the relationship can be expressed thusly:

BS ↔ ¬S ⇒ ¬B

and therefore I was not talking about my penis. Yes, I'll yield the remainder of my time, Madam Chairwoman. Thank you.

This explanation might actually make sense, but only if he put the stress on the word "you're" in the sentence above when he said it. Because so far no one has sent me the audio (I'm looking at you, Connecticut Republicans), I can't say whether he did or not. [See update below.] 

But unfortunately for the possible truth of that explanation, Hewett has what Rep. Mae Flexer described as a "history of bad behavior," though "primarily verbal," involving females. "I get along with everyone" was Hewett's response to that, which is not quite a denial. And he explained that the reason he doesn't choose female interns (which he doesn't) is just because—well, here's his explanation: 

"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.

"As a matter of fact, I went four, maybe six years without having an intern at all because of stuff like that. I have a male intern, the last two I've had were male."

Asked if he chose to only have males, he said, "I don't get to choose. That's why I was so leery about staying away from interns. I don't know what they're going to give me. They may give me a female, but 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."

Emphasis added. See, you started out by saying female interns are lazy and male interns aren't, and that already sounded sexist. Then you followed up by appearing to suggest that you don't choose female interns because if you did you might harass them. Your dim intuition that this also might be sexist was correct.

In fact, Hewett doesn't "choose" not to have female interns at all. According to Rep. Flexer—also a Democrat, and a former chair of the Assembly's Internship Committee—due to his "history," they won't assign him any. She said his suggestion to the contrary was "ludicrous" and "ridiculous." (Also "sexist.")

The Democrats are said to be planning a "sexual harassment refresher course" in the wake of Hewett's snaky comment, a course that should probably include a definition of "sexist."

UPDATE: Having now listened to the audio (available here), I think it actually supports his explanation of what he was trying to say. Not that it was a good idea to say it, but I don't think he meant it the way it looks on the page. Judge for yourself, though. The remainder of the evidence, of course, is unaffected by this.