Connecticut state Rep. Ernest Hewett told a 17-year-old girl, "If you're bashful I got a snake sitting under my desk here." In public. On the record. At a legislative hearing. While she was testifying about a program to overcome social anxiety of the very sort you might develop if a creep humiliates you by saying sexual things about you in public. Lots of politicians say offensive things because they're so right- or left-wing they don't get why what they're saying is offensive — like when they compare, say, abortion, or Citizens United, to slavery. Hewett's comment, made February 21, is worse. The Democrat's comment shouldn't have made it past the normal human filter. On Wednesday he was stripped of his title of deputy speaker. He apologized, saying, "I take full responsibility for my actions. In hindsight, I can really see how this can be misconstrued as something sexual."
The New London Day noticed the exchange, which was picked up by Political Wire. According to audio of the testimony, the girl said: "I am usually a very shy person, and now I am more outgoing. 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."
Hewett responded: "If you're bashful I got a snake sitting under my desk here."
There has been some skepticism that a sane person would make a sex joke to a teen in a legislative hearing. True, we don't have video. Maybe there were some zoo animals on display. But local news reports do not indicate any snakes were present, much less under Hewett's desk. This raises troubling questions. Is it possible Hewett's joke was a snake joke, not a sex joke? Can there even be a snake joke that's not a sex joke? Yes, the 17-year-old mentioned snakes before Hewett made his joke. But that is how sex jokes work! Woman says thing, man says, "That's what she said."
In fairness to Hewett, the audio makes it sound like everyone laughed.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.