Rep. Don Young reportedly stunned a crowd at Wasilla High School in Alaska by blaming suicide in part on a lack of support from family and friends and talking about sex between bulls to describe his opposition to same-sex marriage.
The 81-year-old Republican, who is seeking re-election, stunned people in the audience Tuesday who were grieving after a student committed suicide at the school days earlier, by blaming friends and family along with alcohol and depression, the Alaska Dispatch News reported .
Wasilla Principal Amy Spargo ripped the congressman's remarks as hurtful and untrue.
"When I heard 'a lack of support from family' and I heard 'a lack of support from friends,' I felt the oxygen go out of the room, but I gasped as well," Spargo said. "It just isn't true in these situations. It's just such a hurtful thing to say." Both Spargo and [teacher Carla] Swick say a friend of the victim, moved by emotion, shouted at Young, “He had friends. He had support.” “The kid said, ‘It’s depression — you know, a mental illness,'” Spargo recalled. As she remembers, Young replied, “Well, what, do you just go to the doctor and get diagnosed with suicide?’”Young's office issued a statement to the paper:
“Congressman Young was very serious and forthright when discussing the issue of suicide, in part because of the high number of tragedies that affect Alaskan youth. He discussed what he believes are leading causes of youth suicide in our state and shared some suggestions for helping family members and friends who are dealing with suicidal thoughts,” spokesman Matt Shuckerow wrote in an email. “In no way did Congressman Young mean to upset anyone with his well-intentioned message. In light of the tragic events affecting the Wasilla High School community, he should have taken a much more sensitive approach.”One student asked Young about his opposition to gay marriage.
As Spargo described it, Young answered, “You can’t have marriage with two men. What do you get with two bulls?” Witnesses say Young then said something about a lot of "bullshazzle" or some word resembling the more familiar obscenity. “At that point I was heading for the microphone," the principal said. "It was time to be done.”Young, who is the longest-serving Republican in the House, later told Spargo that the boy who shouted at him and was a friend of the boy who committed suicide "needs to learn some respect," she said.
Young's ornery demeanor has gotten him plenty of attention over the years. He's flouted ethics rules, twisted a staffer's arm and even told CQ Roll Call "there's some truth to that" when asked about a report he told his Democratic challenger that the last person to touch him "ended up on the ground dead."
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