A GOP Lawmaker Berated His Female Colleague & Said She "Doesn't Know A Damn Thing"

by Jessicah Lahitou
Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Being addressed as "young lady" is not something adult women expect to hear in a professional setting, much less if you are, like Pramila Jayapal, a Congresswoman in your 50s. And yet on Thursday evening, that happened to her. Berating Jayapal in Congress on Thursday, Alaska's sole House member Rep. Don Young called his female colleague "young lady" and declared that she "doesn't know a damn thing." And he did all this on the House floor, C-Span cameras a-rolling.

The comments came during House debate over an amendment concerning wildlife management in Alaska. Young objected to Jayapal's opposition to the amendment, and then voiced said disagreement in a way described by journalist Cristina Marcos at The Hill as "unusually personal."

That seems an like accurate assessment. While House representatives sometimes express heated emotions over legislation, they usually constrain themselves to anger or passion based on conviction of their ideology.

The House presiding officer appeared to recognize this, cutting Young off after Jayapal spoke on her own behalf, calling out Young for his unnecessary insults. "The gentleman has already impugned my motives by saying that I don’t ‘know a damn thing’ about what I’m talking about," Jayapal shot back, "and he’s now called me ‘young lady,’”

Young later conceded, withdrawing his previous comments and offering Jayapal an apology. "I get very defensive about my state,” Young said. “I recognize it was out of order, so I hope you accept my apology.”

Jayapal is serving her first term in the House, in stark contrast to Young, who has held Alaska's only House seat since 1973. That multiple-decade career in the lower chamber makes Young the longest-serving representative in the House today.

Jayapal gives no indication that this seniority intimidates her. In fact, she sent out a tweet last night re-upping her commitment to being a woman of color unafraid to speak up for herself — and encouraging others to follow suit.

This is not Young's first run-in with controversy. In 2005, Young said those seeking to reroute funds for then-Governor Sarah Palin's infamous "bridge to nowhere" to victims of Hurricane Katrina could "kiss my ear." In a 1994 antic both surreal and vaguely disturbing, Young brought in a penis bone from a walrus to emphasize his point of view during a disagreement with then-U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Mollie Beattie.

Most recently, Young came under fire for using the racial slur "wetbacks" in reference to temporary immigrant workers from Central and South America. Now it seems Young will be adding one more to his list of questionable and/or controversial actions. As Jayapal demonstrated, when you call a grown woman and fellow representative "young lady" and accuse her of knowing nothing, you can expect a real-time rebuttal. It is 2017, after all.