Rep. Don Young, the Alaska congressman known for making controversial statements, seemed to suggest that Jewish people died in the Holocaust because they were unarmed.
While speaking at a conference in his home state, the Republican lawmaker said, “How many millions of people were shot and killed because they were unarmed? Fifty million in Russia because their citizens were unarmed.”
He continued: “How many Jews were put in the ovens because they were unarmed?”
Young’s quote came after Dimitri Shein, a Democrat who is running for Young’s congressional seat, asked about school safety. Shein said his daughter’s school had been placed on lock-down, prompting the question. He didn’t identify himself a congressional candidate at the time.
Young spokeswoman Murphy McCollough said Young’s comment was taken out of context.
“He was referencing the fact that when Hitler confiscated firearms from Jewish Germans, those communities were less able to defend themselves,” McCollough said in an email. “He was not implying that an armed Jewish population would have been able to prevent the horrors of the Holocaust, but his intended message is that disarming citizens can have detrimental consequences.”
Shein disagreed with that statement, arguing that Young had been trying to deflect the gun issue, blaming violence on video games and referencing the Holocaust instead of answering the question or proposing a solution.
Shein, who immigrated from Russia in 1993, also took offense to Young saying that armed Russians would have been able to prevent slaughters by the Red Army.
“It’s just insulting,” he said.
Still, he believes that the congressman’s comments will merely fuel contributions to his re-election campaign.
Young — who has been Congress since 1973 and is the longest-serving member of Congress currently in office — has a reputation for making controversial comments. Last year, he had to apologize for referring to a fellow lawmaker in her 50s as “young lady” who didn’t know what she was talking about. In 2014, he apologized for saying suicide showed a lack of support from friends and family. And back in 2013, he apologized after referring to Hispanic migrant workers as “wetbacks.”