In a 1971 interview appearing in Playboy magazine, John Wayne said a number of things that proved once and for all that he is no one’s idea of a Progressive. Here are a few snippets:
- “I believe in 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 regarded Midnight Cowboy and Easy Rider as homosexual films.
- “I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from [the Indians], 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.”
- On the subject of slavery, he said that he didn’t feel any guilt about the U.S. history.
So now the Professionally Outraged (who are permanently P.O.’d) want to do with the Duke what other protestors did to Confederate battle flags and statues of Robert E. Lee, namely, wipe their memory off the face of the earth.
While I cannot personally countenance what Wayne said, I think it is ridiculous to consider changing the name of the John Wayne Airport in Orange County to some more innocuous person who was never actually caught saying something unpopular in public. No doubt, such persons may exist. I myself have said and done a number of things which are equally reprehensible. After all, I was the son of a George C. Wallace supporter and (back in Czechoslovakia) a Jew-baiter. It was not until I divested myself of my Cleveland background that my thinking has been more politically correct.
As nasty as some of John Wayne’s beliefs were to me, I continue to enjoy his performances in Westerns by John Ford and Howard Hawks—even while I deplore some fave projects of his as Big Jim McLain (1952) in which he played an investigator for the House Un-American Activities Commitee (HUAC) and The Green Berets (1968) in which he was gung-ho on the Viet Nam War.
John Wayne was a man of his times. By the time of the Playboy interview, he was already ill and probably bitter about the direction the country was taking. I see no reason why we have to make him an unperson for some words he said half a century ago.