'John Wayne was not a racist:' son comes to late dad's defense following calls to rename California airport

1010 WINS Newsroom
June 29, 2020 - 11:23 pm
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NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- John Wayne's son has come to his late father's defense following calls to rename southern California's John Wayne airport after a 1971 Playboy interview resurfaced in which the actor seemingly praised white supremacy.

"We can't all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks," he told the magazine. "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."

As for Native Americans, Wayne also told the magazine, "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."

Those comments -- and there were more like them -- sound racist to many people, but Wayne's son Ethan Wayne told TMZ otherwise.

"Let me make one thing clear — John Wayne was not a racist," Ethan said. 

He added, "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. 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."

Ethan Wayne even said his father would have been at the forefront of demanding justice.

"One thing we know — if John Wayne were here today, he would be in the forefront demanding fairness and justice for all people," he said. "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.

The Democratic Party of Orange County last Friday passed a resolution calling for John Wayne's name and likeness to be removed from the Orange County's airport, citing his “white supremacist, anti-LGBT and anti-indigenous views."

John Wayne
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ETHAN WAYNE'S FULL STATEMENT

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.

There is no question that the words spoken by John Wayne in an interview 50 years ago have caused pain and anger. 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. 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. It would be an injustice to judge him based on a single interview, as opposed to the full picture of who he was. 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.

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. 

Since his death more than 40 years ago, his legacy continues through the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, which has helped provide courage, strength and grit to the fight against cancer, and through his extensive film library. 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.