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Congressman Uses Obscenity to ‘Educate’ High School Students

April 23, 1995 GMT

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) _ U.S. Rep. Don Young said he was just trying to educate high school students when he used an obscenity to refer to anal sex while denouncing government funding of the arts.

Young, Alaska’s lone congressman for 22 years and a former teacher, told the auditorium full of 15- to 18-year-olds that the federal government has funded ``photographs of things that are absolutely ridiculous″ and ``photographs of people doing offensive things.″

When students asked which pictures he was talking about, Young said, ``butt f------ ... You think that’s art?″


At West Valley High School, his words Friday had the roughly 150 students laughing or grumbling.

Later, Young told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that he thought his comments would have lacked impact if he had used different words. ``I was a teacher. I was trying to educate,″ he said.

He apparently was referring to the Cincinnati exhibit in 1990 of homoerotic photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe.

Reaction to the exhibit, partly funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, caused artists and grant foundations nationwide to re-examine funding rules and censorship issues.

Young had been invited by a student government class to talk about the GOP’s ``Contract with America.″ As the meeting closed, Young addressed students who might have been offended.

``I don’t apologize. You’re all adults, and if you have to ask the questions, I’m going to answer,″ the Republican said.

Teachers and administrators called Young’s language inappropriate. Some students were disappointed.

``He’s supposed to be setting an example,″ said junior Lesley Taylor, 17.