John Wayne’s son has blasted a new move by California Democrats demanding that Orange County’s John Wayne Airport be renamed because they feel the famed western actor uttered “racist and bigoted statements” nearly 50 years ago.
“Let me make one thing clear — John Wayne was not a racist. I know that term is casually tossed around these days, but I take it very seriously. I also understand how we got to this point,” Ethan Wayne said in a statement to Fox News on Monday.
“There is no question that the words spoken by John Wayne in an interview 50 years ago have caused pain and anger,” Ethan said, referring to the late actor’s 1971 interview with Playboy. “They pained him as well, as he realized his true feelings were wrongly conveyed. The truth is, as we have seen in papers from his archives, he did not support ‘white supremacy’ in any way and believed that responsible people should gain power without the use of violence,” Wayne said.
“Those who knew him, knew he judged everyone as an individual and believed everyone deserved an equal opportunity,” Ethan added. “He called out bigotry when he saw it. He hired and worked with people of all races, creeds, and sexual orientations. John Wayne stood for the very best for all of us — a society that doesn’t discriminate against anyone seeking the American dream.”
Wayne said it “would be an injustice to judge him based on a single interview, as opposed to the full picture of who he was.”
County Democrats on Friday passed a resolution demanding that the county’s airport be renamed, adding that all likenesses of Wayne — photos, statues, everything — be removed from the airport, which was named in John Wayne’s honor in 1979, shortly after the western actor died.
“The Democratic Party of Orange County condemns John Wayne’s racist and bigoted statements, and calls for John Waynes’ [sic] name and likeness to be removed from the Orange County airport, and calls on the OC Board of Supervisors to restore its original name: Orange County Airport,” says the resolution, passed Friday.
The board cited remarks Wayne made in a 1971 interview with Playboy.
“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,” he said in the interview 49 years ago. “I don’t feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago these people were slaves,” he said at another point.
The demand comes as liberals across the country are pushing to tear down monuments and rename buildings and institutions that they deem to be racist.
The Democrats’ resolution applauds a “national movement to remove white supremacist symbols and names [that is] reshaping American institutions, monuments, businesses, nonprofits, sports leagues, and teams, as it is widely recognized that racist symbols produce lasting physical and psychological stress and trauma particularly to Black communities, people of color and other oppressed groups, and the removal of racist symbols provides a necessary process for communities to remember historic acts of violence and recognize victims of oppression.”
Wayne, who starred in dozens of movies, including “Stagecoach” in 1939 and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” in 1962, also addressed Native Americans in his Playboy interview.
“I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. … [O]ur so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival,” he said. “There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”
But Ethan Wayne said that portrayal is wrong.
“The current focus on social justice is absolutely valid and necessary. But attempts by some to use it for political advantage distract from real opportunities for reform,” he said.
“One thing we know – if John Wayne were here today, he would be in the forefront demanding fairness and justice for all people,” said Wayne’s son. “He would have pulled those officers off of George Floyd because that was the right thing to do. He would stand for everyone’s right to protest and work toward change.”
Floyd died on Memorial Day while in the custody of Minneapolis police.
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