Rep. Don Young's 'hurtful' suicide remarks sting high schoolers
© Greg Nash

Alaska Rep. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungFive takeaways on the House's return to budget earmarks Does Biden have an ocean policy? McCarthy and Biden haven't spoken since election MORE (R) reportedly stunned a high school audience by saying that suicide shows a lack of support from family and friends. 

Young, 81, was speaking at a high school in Wasilla, Alaska, on Tuesday morning, where students were still mourning the loss of a student who committed suicide the previous week. The comments from the event, which was not recorded, were reported by the Alaska Dispatch News.

According to the newspaper, when asked about suicide, the congressman said it shows a lack of support from friends and family.


"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," Principal Amy Spargo told the Dispatch News. "It just isn't true in these situations. It's just such a hurtful thing to say." 

Witnesses say a friend of the student's shouted, “He had friends. He had support.” School staffers said Young used the words ""a--hole” or “smarta--" during the exchange. 

“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," Young spokesman Matt Shuckerow said in a statement to the paper. "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.

"In no way did Congressman Young mean to upset anyone with his well-intentioned message," the statement continued. "In light of the tragic events affecting the Wasilla High School community, he should have taken a much more sensitive approach.”

In addition to these comments, Young also reportedly said "hell" several times and told a story about flying to Paris to get drunk as part of an answer about travel time involved in his job. 

Young spoke to an assembly of students and staff in the school theater and took questions. When asked why he opposed gay marriage, Young replied, according to a teacher, “You can’t have marriage with two men. What do you get with two bulls?” 

“Congressman Young responded to each and every question with serious and honest answers, which at times included strong language,” the statement from Young's office said.

The statement adds that Young has “communicated with Wasilla High School administration his regret for any offense taken during the honest and spirited discussion." 

Spargo, the principal, told the Dispatch News that she received an email from Young's office, but the attachment was missing. 

Young has in the past also described Latinos as "wetbacks" and been involved in a string of controversies. 

The Republican is currently favored to win a 22nd term next month against Democrat Forrest Dunbar.