The longest-serving Republican in the U.S. House made a bizarre, combative appearance Tuesday morning at an Alaska high school.
U.S. Rep Don Young (R-AK) used profanity and described two bulls having sex when asked about gay marriage by students at Wasilla High School, shocking students and prompting the principal to cut short the event.
The 81-year-old Young drew gasps with hurtful and insensitive remarks about suicide just days after a student from the school took his own life, reported the Alaska Dispatch News.
A teacher asked about the state’s high suicide and domestic violence rates, and the lawmaker said suicide demonstrated a lack of support by family and friends.
“I felt the oxygen go out of the room, but I gasped as well,” said Principal Amy Spargo. “It just isn’t true in these situations. It’s just such a hurtful thing to say.”
One of the dead teen’s friends shouted at Young, the principal said, arguing that the boy had friends and support and telling the lawmaker depression is a mental illness.
“Well, what — do you just go to the doctor and get diagnosed with suicide?’” Spargo said the congressman replied, and school staffers told the newspaper Young used the words “asshole” or “smartass.”
Young made news earlier this month after he reacted strongly to his Democratic challenger, Forrest Dunbar, touching him on the arm prior to a debate.
“He freaked out, there is no other way to describe it,” Dunbar said. “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.’”
Young was asked to clarify his comments by Roll Call, but the congressman offered only an oblique statement: “There’s some truth to that.”
The congressman’s office said Young was “serious and forthright” when he discussed suicide with the students in Wasilla, where Sarah Palin once served as mayor and still owns a home.
“In no way did Congressman Young mean to upset anyone with his well-intentioned message,” his spokesman said. “In light of the tragic events affecting the Wasilla High School community, he should have taken a much more sensitive approach.”
Young also repeatedly chided another student to remove his hands from his pockets after the teen asked about a ballot measure that would legalize recreational marijuana, and after complying, the teen asked Young what was so bad about same-sex marriage.
“You can’t have marriage with two men,” Young said. “What do you get with two bulls?”
The congressman said the relationship would result in “bullshazzle” or, as the newspaper described it, another “word resembling the more familiar obscenity.”
The principal decided at that point to end the event.