WASHINGTON – Veteran Alaska Rep. Don Young has apologized after addressing a 51-year-old female colleague as “young lady” and saying she “doesn’t know a damn thing what she’s talking about.”
Young, 84, is a Republican in his 23rd term as Alaska’s sole House member. In a House floor debate Thursday night, Young was offering an amendment about wildlife management on national preserves in his state when Democratic freshman Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington spoke in opposition.
Jayapal, who was born in India, is the first Indian-American woman in the House.
Clearly angry, Young said that Jayapal “doesn’t know a damn thing what she’s talking about.” He accused her of parroting “nonsense” from a special interest group and said, “You may not know me, young lady, but I’m deeply disturbed.”
Jayapal objected immediately and asked that Young’s words be stricken from the record. Young later apologized, saying he has a tendency to “get very defensive about my state.”
Jayapal said she accepted the apology and told Young, “We have obviously some work to get to know each other, but I can tell you that I care about my state as deeply as you do.”
She later tweeted that her response to Young was “a message to women of color out there: stand strong. Refuse to be patronized or minimized. Let the small guys out there be intimidated by you.”
Young, known for his brusque manner, has apologized before for words spoken on the House floor or other public venues. In 2013, he apologized for using the term “wetbacks” when discussing migrant workers. He acknowledged it was an “insensitive term” and said it should have been left behind with the last century.
In 2014, Young apologized after telling Alaska high school students where a child had died from suicide that a lack of support from friends and family is sometimes to blame.
Young later said that a family member of his had died from suicide. “It’s very personal to me. It may have caused me to mangle some of my statements and comments that caused this uproar,” he said.