“Never Get so Low that No One will want to Touch You”

Elizabeth Field

I had an enriching experience working as a Legislative Intern at the Connecticut State Capitol two years ago. I was fortunate enough to be placed in the office of Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney, whose staff provided me with guidance, opportunities to gain experience in grassroots campaigning and initiatives, and made themselves warmly available to any of my questions or curiosities. I’ve always been a supporter of the internship program at the Capitol, however after recent events, this program now evokes in me something between weariness and nausea.

On Feb. 20, New London Representative Ernest Hewett (D) made a lewd sexual comment to a minor in a public committee hearing. The 17-year-old requested the continued funding of the Connecticut Science Center Ambassador Program as it had helped her overcome her shyness and fear of snakes. Representative Hewett then charmingly responded: “If you’re bashful, I got a snake under my desk here.”

Hewett has responded to nationwide media outrage by stating that he was unaware his remark could be interpreted as offensive. With all do respect, what planet do you live on where this comment can be interpreted as anything but sexual harassment? If this was a joke as his office has claimed it to be, I must be sorely dim because I cannot find any angle from which this could be construed as humorous. Someone please enlighten me!

Dear Representative Hewett, not only is your unsettling act of sexually propositioning a minor inappropriate, but it is also considered child sexual abuse in the State of Connecticut. Fear not readers, he has been reprimanded for his outrageous conduct. He was stripped of his deputy speaker title and reported that he considered this matter “closed.”

If only it were that easy. Days later he gave an interview to the Hartford Courant, detailing how normally honorable and principled he behaves in his position, saying, “I purposely will not have female interns. My intern is now 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.”

He went on to say that he cannot choose to only be placed with male interns but would prefer not to be assigned a female because “that way that keeps me good and everybody else good.” Okay, seriously, who is in charge of this man’s publicity?

I am honestly wracking my brain, trying to find a way to interpret this in a not-completely-offensive light. It’s been seven minutes…it’s impossible.

Either you are saying you cannot control yourself around young women (which is a serious issue and you should definitely seek professional advice), or you are implying that female interns do not match up to the work ethic of their male counterparts.

All right, deep breathe. Just for clarification, internships at the Connecticut State Capitol aren’t particularly glamorous. I worked Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 to 5, and 95 percent of that time was spent chained to my desk licking envelopes, filing, and sending generic e-mails and voicemails to constituents with concerns. And guess what? On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 to 5 my very same desk was occupied by a male intern, doing ALL of the same tasks! Imagine that! I am so proud that my envelope-stuffing skill set matches up to that of a 19-year-old male—this is what I’m going to college for right?

You would think that in 2013 such blatant sexism, especially in the government, would not be tolerated. The future of my faith in the Connecticut State government, and that of the 5,000 signatures featured on a popular petition, demands your resignation.

On Representative Hewett’s government website he prominently features the quote: “Never get so high that no one can touch you, Never get so low that no one will want to touch you.” I hate to be the one to break it to you, Representative, but…