JOHN Wayne’s son has responded to demands by California Democrats in Orange County to rename the county’s John Wayne Airport, stating that his father was “not a racist.”
A resolution passed on Friday asks that the county’s board of supervisors restore the name to the Orange County Airport.
There have been numerous attempts to rename John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, over the years[/caption]
In a statement made to Fox News, Ethan Wayne said: “Let me make one thing – 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.
He continued: “There is no question that the words spoken by John Wayne in an interview 50 years ago have caused pain and anger,” referencing Wayne’s 1971 interview with Playboy Magazine.
“They pained him as, well, as he realized his true feelings were wrongly conveyed.”
In the interview, Wayne is quoted as saying, “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.”
Ethan, 58, the president of John Wayne Enterprises, added that there are papers in Wayne’s archives that show “he did not support white supremacy in any way and believed that responsible people should gain power without the use of violence.”
He continued: “Those who knew him, knew he judged everyone as an individual and believed everyone deserved an equal opportunity.
“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 angered people with his comments in a 1971 Playboy Magazine interview[/caption]
Wayne passed away at age 72 from cancer in 1979, and Ethan, his youngest son, said it would be unfair for his father to be judged on a single interview.
County officials voted to change the name of the airport when Wayne died – but a push to change its name back has a long history.
The issue has come up periodically down the years, and a statue of Wayne also appears outside the airport.
The latest push comes at a time when communities are moving to remove statues of those who legacies are tied to racist actions, sparked by the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.
Ethan said: “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.
MOST READ IN US NEWS
“One thing we know – if John Wayne were here today, he would be in the forefront demanding fairness and justice for all people.”
“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.”
He concluded his statement: “My father believed that we can learn from yesterday, but not by erasing the past. His name, no matter where it is, will always embody these values, and our family knows the positive impact that he made on the world will never be diminished.”
A statue of Wayne also stands at the airport[/caption]