U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, isn’t backing away from controversial remarks he made earlier this week that suicide is from a “lack of support” while speaking at a high school that had recently lost a classmate. The next day, when asked about the comment, the Alaska Republican blamed the state’s high suicide rate on “government largesse.”
Young, the oldest Republican in Congress, told a group of high school students in Wasilla on Tuesday that suicide is the result of “a lack of support from family,” according to the Alaska Dispatch News. The remark was called particularly “hurtful” to students because a classmate had committed suicide a week before, school officials explained.
On Wednesday, Young did little to walk back the remarks despite a statement from his office to the contrary. The Alaska Dispatch News reported that while speaking at a senior center on Wednesday, Young blamed the state’s suicide rate on government programs.
“When people had to work and had to provide and had to keep warm by putting participation in cutting wood and catching the fish and killing the animals, we didn’t have the suicide problem,” Young said, according to a recording obtained by the Alaska Dispatch News.
Young also criticized the school for allowing students to disrespect him while his was speaking, saying he wouldn’t “coddle” them.
Young’s remark about suicide wasn’t the only comment that drew criticism following his speech at Wasilla High School. After a student disagreed with the congressman’s suicide remarks, witnesses told the Alaska Dispatch News that Young responded by using profanity. At another point he was asked about same-sex marriage and began discussing bull sex, the paper reported.
Young is being challenged by young Democrat Forrest Dunbar. An incident became public earlier this month when Dunbar claimed the sitting congressman “freaked out” before a debate when he lightly touched his arm.
“He kind of snarled at me and said, ‘Don’t you ever touch me. Don’t ever touch me. The last guy who touched me ended up on the ground dead,’” Dunbar told the Alaska Dispatch News.
Last year, Young came under criticism from his own party when he used the term “wetback” while discussing Latinos his father had hired.