John Wayne’s son is speaking after California Democrats in Orange County recently demanded that the name of the county’s John Wayne Airport be changed and that all of Wayne’s likeness be removed from the airport, for “racist and bigoted statements “made by the American icon decades ago.
The resolution, which was passed on Friday, asks the county board of supervisors to restore the name to Orange County Airport.
In a statement to Fox News on Monday, Ethan Wayne said: “Let me clarify one thing: John Wayne was not a racist. I know that term occurs casually these days, but I take it very seriously. I also understand how we got to this point. .
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“There is no doubt that the words spoken by John Wayne in an interview 50 years ago have caused pain and anger,” Ethan continued, referring to the late actor’s 1971 interview with Playboy. “It also hurt him as he realized that his true feelings were wrongly conveyed.”
In the interview at the time, Wayne is quoted as saying: “I believe in white supremacy until blacks are brought up to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people. “He also said he had no remorse for the Native American subjugation and called films like” Easy Rider “and” Midnight Cowboy “perverted.
Ethan, who is Wayne’s youngest son and president of John Wayne Enterprises, went on to say in his statement on Monday: “The truth is that, as we have seen in his archival documents, he in no way supported ‘white supremacy.’ and believed that responsible people should gain power without the use of violence.
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“Those who knew him knew that he judged everyone as an individual and believed that everyone deserved the same opportunity,” added Ethan. “He called bigotry when he saw it. He hired and worked with people of all races, creeds, and sexual orientations. John Wayne championed the best for all of us, a society that does not discriminate against anyone who seeks the American Dream.”
Ethan said “it would be an injustice to judge him based on a single interview, rather than the full picture of who he was.”
“The current approach to social justice is absolutely valid and necessary. But some attempts to use it to gain political advantage distract from the real opportunities for reform,” he said.
The 58-year-old man also explained what his father would have done if he were still alive today.
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“One thing we know is that if John Wayne were here today, he would be at the forefront of demanding fairness and justice for all people,” said Ethan. “I would have taken those officers out of George Floyd, because that was the right thing to do. Defend everyone’s right to protest and work to achieve change.”
Wayne passed away at age 72 of cancer in 1979.
“Since his death more than 40 years ago, his legacy continues through the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, which has helped bring courage, strength and courage to the fight against cancer, and through its extensive library of films. My father believed that we can learn from yesterday, but not by erasing the past. His name, no matter where he is, will always embody these values, and our family knows that the positive impact he made on the world will never be diminished, “Ethan concluded in your statement.
The push to oust Wayne, who was a longtime county resident, by the name of the airport has a long history. The airport, located in the heart of Orange County, dates back decades, and county officials voted to change the name to remember Wayne when he died.
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Deanne Thompson, an airport spokeswoman, previously said the county has no plans to change the name or remove a statue of Wayne from the airport, although the problem comes up periodically, including last year.
However, the current momentum comes when thousands of Americans have taken to the streets to protest police brutality against blacks and systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
In many places, communities have moved to tear down the statues of former slave owners, or to overthrow them, and to remove the Confederate emblem from the images, including the Mississippi state flag, as well as rename buildings and institutions that bear the name. of people considered racist. racist views or acts committed.
The Orange County Democratic Party said in a statement that it agrees with the move to remove Wayne’s name from the airport. The statement said, in part, that “Orange County is now a diverse region very different from when John Wayne was named as the airport’s namesake.”
Fox News’ Adam Shaw and The Associated Press contributed to this report.