The Orange County airport in California is named after Oscar-winning actor John Wayne. Now, there’s a movement to have that changed after his offensive comments about minority groups in a ‘Playboy’ magazine interview resurfaced.
People are calling for John Wayne Airport, Orange County to change its name, following its namesake’s racist and homophobic quotes in a 1971 article, which went viral on Twitter. Writer Michael Hiltzik’s column in the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 21 argued that the airport should be renamed after it was revealed that John supported white supremacy. “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility,” John said in the Playboy article. John also described a gay characters as “perverted” when discussing Midnight Cowboy and used a homophobic slur.
Because of this, Helzig argued that that due to the diverse community in Orange County, “it’s hard to justify asking any member of that community to board planes at an airport named after an outspoken racist and homophobe, with his strutting statue occupying a central niche in front of the concourse.”
John himself had lived in the Orange County area, and the airport was named after him when he died in 1979 at 72 years old. John’s 57-year-old son Ethan took to CNN to defend his late father in light of the public request to change the airport’s name.
“Well, obviously we don’t want our father attacked and we don’t want to besmirch by someone who’s taking words from an interview that’s eight hours long and using them out of context,” Ethan said. “They put my father’s name on that airport for the same reason that congress voted to give him a congressional gold medal, for the same reason that the president decided to give him a medal of freedom, and it’s recognition of a lifetime of significant contribution to this country, his community, and to his industry.”
“It would be an injustice to judge someone based on an interview that’s being used out of context, they’re trying to contradict how he lived his life and how he lived his life was who he was,” John’s son continued. “Any discussion of removing his name from the airport should include the full picture of the life of John Wayne and not be based on a single outlier interview from half a century ago.” While Ethan argued that his father’s quote about a gay love story was out of context, and his father was actually “talking about the negative direction the film industry is taking in regards to sex, violence, and nudity,” Ethan did not comment about his father’s statements saying John supported white supremacy.