John Wayne, or the “Duke” — who was born in 1907 and died on June 11, 1979, some 40 years ago — sparked debate online after offensive comments he made in a widely circulated 1971 Playboy interview concerning race and sexuality were posted to Twitter.
The four following answers in particular have become subject to scrutiny (emphasis added):
PLAYBOY: What kind of films do you consider perverted?
WAYNE: Oh, Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy—that kind of thing. Wouldn’t you say that the wonderful love of those two men in Midnight Cowboy, a story about two fags, qualifies? But don’t get me wrong. As far as a man and a woman is concerned, I’m awfully happy there’s a thing called sex. It’s an extra something God gave us. I see no reason why it shouldn’t be in pictures. Healthy, lusty sex is wonderful.
PLAYBOY: Angela Davis claims that those who would revoke her teaching credentials on ideological grounds are actually discriminating against her because she’s black. Do you think there’s any truth in that?
WAYNE: With a lot of blacks, there’s quite a bit of resentment along with their dissent, and possibly rightfully so. But we can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.
PLAYBOY: Many militant blacks would argue that they have it better almost anywhere else. Even in Hollywood, they feel that the color barrier is still up for many kinds of jobs. Do you limit the number of blacks you use in your pictures?
WAYNE: Oh, Christ no. I’ve directed two pictures and I gave the blacks their proper position. I had a black slave in The Alamo, and I had a correct number of blacks in The Green Berets. If it’s supposed to be a black character, naturally I use a black actor. But I don’t go so far as hunting for positions for them. I think the Hollywood studios are carrying their tokenism a little too far. There’s no doubt that 10 percent of the population is black, or colored, or whatever they want to call themselves; they certainly aren’t Caucasian. Anyway, I suppose there should be the same percentage of the colored race in films as in society. But it can’t always be that way. There isn’t necessarily going to be 10 percent of the grips or sound men who are black, because more than likely, 10 percent haven’t trained themselves for that type of work.
PLAYBOY: […] For years American Indians have played an important—if subordinate—role in your Westerns. Do you feel any empathy with them?
WAYNE: I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that’s what you’re asking. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.
Here were some of the reactions from the political Left:
“Jesus f***, John Wayne was a straight up piece of s***,” said screenwriter Matt Williams, who, it appears, triggered the online reaction after posting the interview excerpts to Twitter.
Comedic actor Patton Oswalt wrote: “‘If it’s supposed to be a black character, naturally I use a black actor’ was as ‘woke’ as John Wayne got, I guess.”
Writer Gennifer Hutchinson suggested it was good to relitigate Wayne’s 48-year-old remarks because some people don’t have the same access to information as others. Ironically, she was later accused of slighting “people of color” with the remark.
“Many people knew John Wayne was a horrible person before yesterday’s reemergence of that one interview. Many people DID NOT. Not everyone has the same access to information along the same timeline. So… your ‘ugh, didn’t everyone already know this?’ takes feel pointlessly snide?”
“No. It doesn’t. Public Enemy said it decades ago. If people listened to POC when they expressed this shit, we wouldn’t be here today,” responded a critic.
Comedian Whitney Cummings, breaking ranks with her liberal ilk, offered: “You guys don’t need to go back to John Wayne to find racist homophobes – maybe we should focus on the alive ones?”
And here are some of the reactions from conservatives:
“John Wayne should run for Governor of Virginia,” wrote Jesse Kelly, a Houston-based radio host and a contributor to The Federalist. Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam, a Democrat, is still in office after he apologized and then denied being in a resurfaced yearbook photo of a man in blackface and another in a KKK robe.
Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro wrote, “I look forward to us digging up every celebrity corpse and then screaming for it to rethink its position on key political issues. That should be fun.”
He also poked fun at the Left’s troubling anti-Trump pathology: “John Wayne was only emboldened to say these terrible things because Donald Trump is president.”
National Review podcast host Jeff Blehar noted that the interview was “infamous” at the time.
“Is John Wayne seriously trending on Twitter because some rando rediscovered the 1971 Playboy interview? It’s infamous! It’s one of the most talked about celebrity interviews in history! How do you ‘rediscover’ it? It’s like ‘rediscovering’ the John Lennon Playboy interview,” wrote Blehar.
Journalist Ian Miles Cheong asked which dead “problematic” celebrity would be “canceled” next.
“After John Wayne, who do you think the next dead celebrity is going to be dredged up from the archives of history to be #canceled over a problematic interview? Let’s hear ’em,” he posted.
“So it appears people are randomly getting offended about some comments John Wayne made in an interview half a century ago. Whenever I think things can’t get any dumber… well actually I always expect things to get dumber and I’m never disappointed,” said The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh. “John Wayne was born in 1907. Breaking news, folks: every human born in 1907 or earlier had opinions you would find abhorrent today. You may be able to find a few exceptions to this rule, but not many.”
“The definition of privilege is having so much free time and money—you can spend your day online bitching about a John Wayne interview from 1971,” wrote podcast host Bridget Phetasy, whose political views are ambiguous.
To read the full interview, click here.