Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young suggested to his House colleagues yesterday that he’d like to introduce gray wolves into their congressional districts to clear up the "homeless problem."
The 22-term congressman — who maintains environmentalist lawmakers overstep their bounds by wading into a fight over wolf protections — appeared to be suggesting that the predators would eat homeless people living in urban districts.
"They haven’t got a damn wolf in their whole district," Young said at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing. "I’d like to introduce them in your district, I’d introduce ’em to your district, and you wouldn’t have a homeless problem anymore."
Young’s outrage was sparked by a letter sent by a bipartisan group of nearly 80 lawmakers to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, asking the Fish and Wildlife Service to reduce but not eliminate federal protections for gray wolves in the lower 48 states (E&ENews PM, March 4).
"The gray wolf, in fact, is a predator which is killing … animals," Young said. To lawmakers who signed the letter, he asked, "How many of you have got wolves in your district? None. None, not one."
Now, the 81-year-old Alaskan — whose political gaffes have often landed him in hot water — is at the center of another controversy.
"It’s really outrageous and distressing, just horrifying to see that kind of comment," said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.
"I would hope that any person of any sense of decency would also find it outrageous," she added. "I think he owes an apology to homeless Americans."
Jerry Jones, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said of Young’s remarks, "The homeless problem that Representative Young mentions are fellow human beings who deserve our compassion and help."
Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat who signed the letter to Jewell about wolf delisting, used Young’s quip to blast Republicans.
"It would appear Rep. Young slipped up and leaked the Republican plan to address poverty," Polis said in a statement. "I suppose that explains why they haven’t brought any bills to the floor yet that would increase the minimum wage, grow middle class jobs, or expand education opportunities in struggling communities."
Young spokesman Matt Shuckerow said Young’s statements were "purposefully hyperbolic" and intended to show wolves are dangerous predators.
"He was making a point that there are a number of risks that are involved here and threats in terms of wildlife management" and the threats wolves "can have to local communities," Shuckerow added.
Young’s office issued a statement yesterday after his comments began making headlines.
"Anyone who’s dealt with a healthy, roaming wolf population, as we have in Alaska, understands that these predators have a detrimental impact on wildlife populations," Young said in the statement.
"If you misunderstood my comments, just imagine the impact a healthy wolf population would have on your own town, community, or congressional district. It would wreak havoc and place anything in their reach in great jeopardy."
History of verbal, physical spats
It’s not the first time Young has gotten attention for his tongue or his temper.
Knife on the House floor: In 1988, Young reportedly wielded a knife on the House floor when New York Democratic Rep. Robert Mrazek floated legislation to curb logging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.
Walrus penis: During a 1994 House hearing, Young brandished the penis bone of a walrus (an oosik) at Fish and Wildlife Service chief Mollie Beattie, who was attempting to fortify the Marine Mammal Protection Act that restricts walrus hunting.
‘Waffle-stomping’ greens: In 2006, Young referred to environmentalists who oppose drilling in the Arctic as "A self-centered bunch of waffle-stomping, Harvard-graduated intellectual idiots. … They are not Americans, never have been Americans, never will be Americans."
Bite ‘like a mink’: Enraged by a 2007 amendment from a New Jersey lawmaker to cut funds from a Native Alaska and Hawaii education bill, Young accused New Jersey students of trying to take money from students in his state. "If we continue this, we’ll be called biting one another, very much like the mink in my state that kill their own," Young said. "There is always another day when those who bite will be killed, too. And I’m very good at that."
Ethnic slur: Young took heat in 2013 after using the ethnic slur "wetbacks" to refer to the workers who picked tomatoes for his father in California. "We used to hire 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes," Young told an Alaska radio station.
Arm twisting: Last summer, video of Young twisting a congressional aide’s arm (and seemingly causing him pain) went viral. Young said the aide was blocking him from entering a meeting.
Same-sex marriage, suicide remarks: Young caused an uproar last October after he compared same-sex marriage to bulls having intercourse and told high school students that suicide shows a "lack of support from friends and family" soon after their classmate had committed suicide.