Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) made waves recently with a suggestion that more Jewish people would have survived the Holocaust had they been armed with guns.
“How many Jews were put in the ovens because they were unarmed?” he asked during an appearance with an Alaska business alliance last week.
The comment was quickly denounced by a wide swath of groups.
It wasn't the first time Young had turned heads with a blunt remark, and it likely won’t be the last. The 84-year-old congressman — the longest-serving member currently in office — has had a penchant for such remarks.
In 2005, Young backed the famous “Bridge to Nowhere” — a proposal to build an expensive bridge with government funds to a sparsely populated area, then told critics that “They can kiss my ear,” after the funds were directed elsewhere.
In 2007, Young threatened to bite a fellow House Republican “like the mink,” after the congressman had opposed one of his earmarks.
In 2010, Young described the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as “not an environmental disaster” but “a natural phenomena.” The spill, considered by many one of the worst environmental catastrophes in U.S. history, poured more than 3 million barrels of crude oil in the gulf for some 87 days after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig started a fire. Eleven crew members were killed.
According to The Washington Post's Rachel Weiner, in the 1990s:
During a congressional hearing, while arguing with then-U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Mollie Beattie, Young brandished an 18-inch-long walrus penis bone and pounded it into his hand for emphasis.
Speaking to a group of high school students, Young lamented that federal funds went to “photographs of people doing offensive things.” He went on to use crude language to describe sexual acts portrayed in artist Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs. “I don’t apologize. You’re all adults, and if you have to ask the questions, I’m going to answer,” he told offended students at the end of the class. But a few days later, Young did apologize to the school for his “unacceptable” language.
In 2011, Young got in a yelling match with Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley during a congressional hearing over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. After Young referred to the historian’s testimony — Brinkley was pushing for the Barack Obama administration to make the refuge a national monument, while Young was in favor of drilling — as “garbage” and erroneously called him “Dr. Rice,” Brinkley sharply cut in to correct him, in a breach of congressional decorum.
“You just be quiet,” Young said.
“You don’t own me,” Brinkley shot back. “I pay your salary.”
In 2013, Young used a racial slur when discussing the ranch hands that used to work with his father. “My father had a ranch,” Young said during a radio interview. “We used to hire 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes. You know it takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.” Young later apologized.
That same day, he also suggested that domestic violence could be avoided if people drank alone more frequently. He said, “I’m going to suggest for those that may be drinking together — stop it! If you want to drink by yourself, you may do it. But when you drink together, the possibility of harm becomes greater every day.”
In 2014, Young told a group of high school students who were mourning the suicide of a classmate that suicides could be blamed on a “lack of support” from family and friends. When one of the deceased student’s friends brought up depression and mental illness after telling Young that his friend had support, the congressman said, “Well, what, do you just go to the doctor and get diagnosed with suicide?” He also swore at the room, told a story about flying to Paris to get drunk, and made a crack about bulls having sex when talking about same-sex marriage.
During an interview with The Post in 2014, he told a story about Rep. Renee L. Ellmers (R-N.C.) sitting in his chair. Though Congress members typically don’t have reserved chairs, Young has sat in the same one for at least 15 years.
“Renee, I can’t think of her last name, nice looking blonde congresswoman, sat in my chair,” Young said. “I said, ‘I’m not kidding, it is my chair.’ And she got up.”