President Donald Trump thinks it is “incredible stupidity” for Democrats in Orange County to push to remove John Wayne’s name, statue and likeness from their county airport. The organization has called for the name change because of, among other things, the racist and bigoted things the screen legend said in a 1971 interview.
In a tweet Monday morning, Trump defended the airport being named after the Hollywood star, a longtime Orange County resident who died 41 years ago. In the same tweet, Trump also blasted the decision by Princeton University to drop Democrat President Woodrow Wilson’s name from its school of public policy.
“Can anyone believe that Princeton just dropped the name of Democrat Woodrow Wilson from their highly respected policy center. Now the Do Nothing Democrats want to take off the name John Wayne from an airport. Incredible stupidity!”
Leaders of Orange County’s Democratic Party passed an emergency resolution last week, condemning Wayne’s comments to Playboy magazine in 1971. Among many incendiary things, Wayne said, “I believe in white supremacy until the Blacks are educated to a point of responsibility.”
The Democratic party leaders have called on the Orange County Board of Supervisors to drop Wayne’s name from the international airport and “restore it to its original name: Orange County Airport,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
The controversy over Wayne’s racist views has been brewing for at least a year. In February 2019, a fierce debate arose on social media after his Playboy comments resurfaced on Twitter.
The Playboy interview occurred when Wayne was in his 60s and fresh off his Oscar win for “True Grit.” In the lengthy interview, Wayne discussed a range of topics, from working in Hollywood to race and sex. He voiced his support for white supremacy during a discussion about Black political activist and academic Angela Davis.
“With a lot of Blacks, there’s quite a bit of resentment along with their dissent, and possibly rightfully so,” Wayne said. “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.”
Later in the interview, Wayne said he didn’t feel “guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago (Black) people were slaves.” Wayne continued: “Now, I’m not condoning slavery. It’s just a fact of life, like the kid who gets infantile paralysis and has to wear braces so he can’t play football with the rest of us.”
Wayne also lamented “tokenism” in Hollywood and accused Native Americans of “selfishly trying to keep (North America) to themselves.” Wayne’s Western films, including “The Searchers,” were accused of perpetuating stereotypes about Native Americans.
Wayne furthermore blasted Communists for teaching in American public schools and the depiction of gay sex in “Midnight Cowboy,” the 1970 best picture Oscar winner. Wayne used a homophobic slur to describe the characters played by Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight.
Journalist and author Glenn Greenwald was among those who joined the Twitter debate to challenge the image Wayne built for himself as a model of American courage and manliness. In many of the more than 200 films Wayne made from 1926 to 1977, Wayne played World War II heroes and stalwart figures of the American West.
Greenwald, a co-founder of The Intercept, tweeted: “I devoted a book chapter to John Wayne, a conservative icon & one of the 20th Century’s most deceitful & pitiful men. A supporter of McCarthy, war cheerleader & moralizer who casually impugned patriotism & called people perverts while draft-dodging & having serial drunken affairs.”
In October, Wayne’s Playboy comments prompted students at the film school at the University of Southern California, the actor’s alma mater, to ask the campus to remove a permanent exhibit devoted to his career. Wayne attended USC in the 1920s under his birth name, Marion Michael Morrison. He was honored with a collection of memorabilia, scripts, props and awards from many of his films.
The move to rethink public tributes to Wayne is part of “a national movement to remove white supremacist symbols and names (that are) reshaping American institutions, monuments, businesses, nonprofits, sports leagues and teams,” the resolution by Orange County Democrats said. The movement was sparked by the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Removing Democrat President Wilson’s name from Princeton University’s school of public policy came Friday. A release from the university’s Board of Trustees said, “We have taken this extraordinary step because we believe that Wilson’s racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school whose scholars, students, and alumni must be firmly committed to combating the scourge of racism in all its forms.”
Wilson, the country’s 28th president from 1913 to 1921, once defended racial segregation as “a benefit” and said slaves “were happy and well-cared for,” CNN reported. He denied admission to African American men and sought to exclude them from the school’s history.
“Wilson’s racism was significant and consequential even by the standards of his own time,” Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber said in a statement. “He segregated the federal civil service after it had been racially integrated for decades, thereby taking America backward in its pursuit of justice. He not only acquiesced in but added to the persistent practice of racism in this country, a practice that continues to do harm today.”
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