Alaska Rep. Don Young (R) on Wednesday stood behind his assertion that suicide was caused by a lack of support from family and friends, and added that government handouts were also to blame.
The Alaska Republican had drawn criticism after he told students at Wasilla High School on Tuesday that families and friends of victims were at fault for the state’s high suicide rates. Students found the remarks particularly hurtful because a classmate had died just days before.
Young went on to tell the students that same-sex marriage was like two bulls mating.
In a statement to the Associated Press on Thursday, Young spokesperson Matt Shuckerow said that the congressmen did not “mean to upset anyone with his well-intentioned message.”
Shuckerow said that Young had offered his “regret for any offense taken during the honest and spirited discussion.”
But on Wednesday, Young seemed to double down on his remarks while speaking at Palmer senior center in Wasilla.
According to the Alaska Dispatch News, Young was “defiant” when he was asked about his “lack of support” comment.
Young explained that one of the students “had the gall to say suicide is a disease.”
“It is not a disease. It is an illness,” he continued. “Now a lot of times that illness should be recognized by a support group and it should be supported by the teachers that recognize this person has an illness. He needs help. Is it his parents or is it his friends who are not supporting him?”
The congressmen went on to say that there were less suicides when he first moved to Alaska because people worked hard, and didn’t take government handouts.
“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 opined, adding that government handouts were “saying you are not worth anything but you are going to get something for nothing,”
Watch the video below from KTBY, broadcast Oct. 23, 2014.