Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Rep. Don Young on Wednesday stood by his controversial comments on suicide and went even further, saying Alaska's suicide problem didn't exist before government "largesse" came to the state.

Speaking at a senior center, the Republican congressman was asked about his claim that friends and family members of victims share responsibility for suicides.


Suicide occurs because federal largesse tells people “you are not worth anything but you are going to get something for nothing,” Young said, according to an audio recording of the event that his Democratic opponent provided to the Alaska Dispatch.

Young, 81, also suggested suicide wasn't a problem during Alaska's earlier days.

“When people had to work and had to provide and had to keep warm by putting participation in cutting wood and catching the fish and killing the animals, we didn’t have the suicide problem,” he reportedly said.


Philip Bump of The Washington Post debunks those claims here, showing no strong link between government assistance and suicide rates. The suicide rate in Alaska was higher during its days as a territory in the early 20th century than it is today.

Young's comments also seem to ignore his long history of bringing federal funding to Alaska.


"I'd like to be a little oinker myself," Young said in 2004 when asked about his appetite for pork-barrel spending.

The practice has occasionally gotten him into trouble. Young faced heavy criticism in 2005 for earmarking $223 million to complete a "bridge to nowhere" in rural Alaska.


Throughout it all, the congressman has never been apologetic about steering government dollars to his home state.

Last week, Young said he'll push to maintain funding for the Denali Commission, which provides money for rural infrastructure projects and military installations such as Eielson Air Force Base, which houses squadrons of F-35 fighter jets.


"Despite the growing debt, there are programs critical to Alaska’s economy that must remain funded," he told the Dispatch in an interview.

Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.