New London - State Rep. Ernest Hewett, who is resisting calls for his resignation after making a remark to a teenager that some say is inappropriate, said Friday that he prefers not to have female interns.
According to The Hartford Courant, the New London Democrat told the paper that he "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."
Hewett made the comments while denying that he has a history of sexual harassment. He added that he spent between four and six years without an intern at all, and clarified that he does not get to choose his interns.
"That's why I was so leery about staying away from interns," he told The Courant. "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."
Hewett did not return phone calls Sunday and no one answered the door of his Colman Street home.
It was a remark at a Feb. 20 Appropriations Committee hearing that focused attention on Hewett. A female 17-year-old ambassador for the Connecticut Science Center testified that day about how the center helped her overcome both her fear of snakes and her shyness.
Hewett then said, "If you're bashful, I got a snake sitting under my desk here."
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey interpreted the comment as sexual innuendo and removed Hewett from his position as deputy speaker, and Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. called Friday for Hewett's resignation. Hewett has said that he will not resign.
Hewett has "emphatically apologized" to the young woman, who accepted it, according to Matt Fleury, president and CEO of the Connecticut Science Center, in a statement on Friday. "We believe him to be sincere," he said.
Fleury said that he was in the audience with the teenager and her mother and grandmother, and that none of them could clearly make out Hewett's comment at the time.
"We were unaware that anything that could be perceived as offensive had been said until reading news accounts," stated Fleury.