John Wayne’s family is firing back over the debate about changing the name of the California airport that bears his moniker.
Forty-one years after the movie star’s death, Wayne’s family is speaking out following the Orange County Democratic Party’s recent comments about the late actor’s “racist and bigoted statements” and the demand that the Orange County Board of Supervisors rename the airport where a nine-foot bronze statue of the actor has long been fitted at the entrance.
In a statement dated June 29 and posted by TMZ, Wayne’s son Ethan defended his father’s name and insisted the Academy Award-winning actor was not a racist and does not deserve to have his name removed from the airport.
“John Wayne was not a racist,” and did not support white supremacy “in any way,” Ethan wrote.
The younger Wayne admitted that he understands how things “got to this point,” a reference to his late father’s controversial 1971 interview with Playboy in which the True Grit star stated that he believed in white supremacy “until the Blacks are educated to a point of responsibility.”
“There is no question that the words spoken by John Wayne in an interview 50 years ago have caused pain and anger,” Ethan wrote.
“They pained him as well, as he realized his true feelings were wrongly conveyed.”
Ethan added that his father regularly hired and worked with people from all races and creeds and that it was unfair to judge him from a single interview when his actions spoke much louder than those words.
Ethan also stated that his father “called out bigotry when he saw it,” and he used the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of white police officers as an example of how his father really lived his life.
“He would have pulled those officers off of George Floyd, because that was the right thing to do,” Ethan wrote.
“He would stand for everyone’s right to protest and work toward change.”
While Wayne’s son said the current focus on social justice is “absolutely valid and necessary,” he denounced those who are attempting to use it for political advantage.
He added that his father’s name and the John Wayne Cancer Foundation will always embody “courage, strength, and grit.”
This is not the first time Ethan has spoken out in defense of his father. Last year, Wayne’s infamous Playboy interview went viral for a new generation when snippets of it were posted on Twitter, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Wayne’s shocking quotes about slavery and Native Americans made headlines 48 years after his original interview, but Ethan claimed the statements were used out of context. Wayne’s son told CNN that is father’s interview was conducted over two days and the transcript was eight hours long. He also said his father regretted using the phrase “white supremacy” and had simply made the “mistake” of repeating the interviewer’s language when he used the term.