Rep. Don Young (R-AK) on Thursday invited a wave of criticism after using a racial slur to characterize Latinos, saying that he and his father, “used to hire 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes.” Young refused to apologize outright for the slur, and several GOP leaders have since called on him to do so.
But it’s not new for Young, one of the most senior Republicans in the House, to go off the rails. He has said a long string of crazy, offensive, or outright bizarre things during his 40-year tenure as a member of Congress. Here’s a look back at just a few of his most outrageous comments:
1. Drink alone to avoid domestic violence.
On the same day as his racial slur comment, Young also held a press conference in which he advised that the best solution to domestic violence is for people to do more imbibing in private: “”Watch the alcohol and the drugs,” he said. “You look at the relationship between violence against the loved ones you love, (it) is usually related to either one of those. And 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.”
2. Members of Congress should be hanged.
Young once misattibuted a quote to Abraham Lincoln on the floor of the House of Representatives. That quote called for members of Congress who opposed war to be hanged. “Congressmen who willfully take action during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged,” Young claimed Lincoln had said. In fact, a conservative academic, not the storied former president, was responsible for the quote.
3. Environmentalists are “waffle-stomping, Harvard-graduating, intellectual idiots.”
Young, who is a big advocate for drilling in the arctic and strongly disbelieves in climate change, said that environmentalists are a “self-centered bunch of waffle-stomping, Harvard-graduating, intellectual idiots” and “are not Americans, never have been Americans, never will be Americans.”
4. Members of Congress are like mink. They bite.
When Young was in an education funding battle in 2007, he likened members of Congress to “the mink in my state that kill their own.” He went on: “There’s always another day when who that bite will be killed, too. And I am very good at that.” Later in the same speech, Young called on voters not to re-elect New Jersey’s representatives:
5. Funny hats prove a point.
Young once wore a hat with a propeller top while questioning Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to show how lightly he took the concerns about “the Obama energy program”:
6. Props prove a point.
Young once waved a walrus penis bone at the incoming chief of the Fish and Wildlife Service, Mollie Beattie.
7. The BP oil spill is not an environmental disaster.
Given his poor record on climate issues, it’s no surprise that Young is a fan of Big Oil. When the Deepwater Horizon oil spill happened, Young brushed it off by saying, ““This is not an environmental disaster, and I will say that again and again because it is a national phenomena. Oil has seeped into this ocean for centuries, will continue to do it.”
On a more serious note, Young has also been under investigation multiple times for ethics violations, including allegations that he used taxpayer money to fund private trips. Young was also responsible, along with his colleague former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) for earmarking the money for the infamous “bridge to nowhere.”
Thanks to the tip from @Apinak, here’s one more for the list:
In 1995, Young disparaged a 1990 exhibit in Cincinnati that included homoerotic photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe. In front of a group of 15- to 18-year-old high school students, Young said, “butt fucking… You think that’s art?”
Then, too, Young refused to apologize, saying, “I don’t apologize. You’re all adults, and if you have to ask the questions, I’m going to answer.”
By Friday afternoon, Young had issued a full apology for using the racial slur ‘wetbacks':
“I apologize for the insensitive term I used during an interview in Ketchikan, Alaska. There was no malice in my heart or intent to offend; it was a poor choice of words. That word, and the negative attitudes that come with it, should be left in the 20th century, and I’m sorry that this has shifted our focus away from comprehensive immigration reform.”