On Monday, Congressman Don Young offended teens at Wasilla High with statements some took to be blaming family and friends for a student’s recent suicide. In a written statement, a spokesman said Young should have been more sensitive.
But Tuesday, Young doubled down on his remarks about suicide.
Speaking at the Mat-Su Senior Center, Young said he was frustrated that three 18-year-olds at the high school had interrupted him, as well as their fellow students.
Rep. Don Young’s answer to a question regarding his remarks to Wasilla High School students.
-Recording provided by the campaign of Democratic challenger Forrest Dunbar.
“And I’m an old school teacher,” Young said. “You do not interrupt.”
The campaign of Young’s Democratic challenger, Forrest Dunbar, emailed news outlets a recording of Young’s remarks at the senior center. On the recording, Young recounted a confrontation with one of the students.
“And then he had the gall to say suicide is a disease. It is not a disease, it is an illness. And a lot of times that illness should be recognized by a support group,” Young said. “And it should be supported by the teachers that recognize this person has an illness. He needs help. Is it his parents? Is it his friends, that are not supporting him?”
Young added that he thinks government assistance adds to the problem by telling people they no longer have to work but can get something for nothing. “This suicide problem didn’t exist until we got largesse from the government,” Young said. Dunbar, Young’s challenger originally said he wasn’t going to capitalize on Young’s insensitive remarks because he assumed the Congressman was sorry. Tuesday evening, though, Dunbar said both episodes are bizarre. Dunbar called Young “completely out of touch” for suggesting Alaska’s suicide crisis is due to public assistance programs. Wasilla High principal Amy Spargo says she didn’t think the student who challenged Young on the cause of suicide on Monday was disruptive. “The student eventually did, with emotion say to Congressman Young that the student we lost had friends and that he had support and his family loved him,” Spargo said.