The John Wayne Airport controversy took another turn after a pair of college professors responded to claims made by Ethan Wayne, the son of the late actor. In a statement he issued following the call for the removal of his father’s name and likeness from the Orange County airport, Wayne defended his father as not being a racist, insisting that had he been alive and there when an officer had his knee on the neck of George Floyd, that he would have stopped it from happening.
Dr. Fred Smoller and Dr. Michael Moodian aren’t convinced, though, as they are two people whose names appear on the resolution. The Chapman University professors shared a joint statement to Fox News calling Wayne’s response “commendable” but do not see anything that supports his claim that “if John Wayne were here today, he would be in the forefront demanding fairness and justice for all people.” The two continued that when he was alive, Wayne didn’t take the chances when he had them to support inclusion, noting that instead, he shared his thoughts that others were “inferior” and “undeserving of an equal place in society.”
The controversy surrounding Wayne stems from a resurfaced Playboy interview in 1971 that saw him state his support for white supremacy while sharing his thoughts on not giving power to anyone that isn’t white. The professors concluded that unlike what his son believes, “If [Wayne] were with us today, we believe it is far more likely that he would have come to the defense of Donald Trump rather than George Floyd.”
Ethan Wayne did admit in his initial statement that the words he said in that interview “caused pain and anger,” but that he did not have any support for white supremacy. Contrary to the beliefs of the professors, Wayne said his father “called out bigotry when he saw it.” Judging him off of one interview is baseless, according to Ethan Wayne, and those should view him on the “full picture.”
Wayne passed away at the age of 72 in 1979. The Winterset, Iowa, native starred in iconic Western films such as True Grit, Stagecoach and Red River. Wayne also was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980. The airport named in his honor occurred in 1979 after previously operating at the Orange County Airport. A nine-foot statue of The Duke resides inside the facility after being commissioned in 1982.