John Wayne's Son Defended His Late Father As Scandal Tainted His Legacy


John Wayne's Son Defended His Late Father As Scandal Tainted His Legacy


Gone, but not forgotten.

That's usually what is said to honor a loved one or role model when they have passed on. Considering recent scandals that have been erupted regarding deceased celebrities, however, the phrase has taken on new meaning.

While a new documentary about Michael Jackson is getting a lot of time in the papers, another scandal with a wildly different star is heating up California.

Orange County is home to the John Wayne Airport, named after the iconic western actor who many of us know as "The Duke." There's recently been a push to rename the airport, stripping Wayne of his honor, after a Playboy interview from 1971 surfaced again.


In it the Oscar-winning actor made some unforgivable comments that have divided the state.

"I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility," he said in the 47-year-old interview. "We can't all of the sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks."


He also spoke disparagingly about what he saw as the "perversion" of Hollywood with new films about homosexuals like Easy Rider and Midnight Cowboy. He used a gay slur to describe those characters before talking about the benefits of sexual intercourse with women.

As a star of many Westerns, Wayne was also asked about Native Americans, which were often portrayed as stereotypes or cast as villains in his movies.

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"I don't feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that's what you're asking," he said. "Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival." He said that Europeans needed new land and Native Americans were "selfishly trying to keep it for themselves."

Few people were surprised that Wayne had controversial views, but hearing them spoken so plainly out-in-the-open has led to new outrage.

His son, Ethan, is trying to defend his father's legacy, while at the same time admitting that what he said was horrible.


"It would be an injustice to judge someone based on an interview that's being used out of context," he said to CNN. "They're trying to contradict how he lived his life, and how he lived his life was who he was." Ethan said his father only cared how well people did their job and didn't judge based on race, gender or sexual orientation.

"He took everyone at face value."

The elder Wayne had many distinctions throughout his 50-year career. He finally won his first Oscar with True Grit and also received a Congressional Gold Medal and a Medal of Freedom. He died after fighting stomach cancer in 1972.


"It's recognition of a lifetime of significant contributions to this country his community and to his industry," said Ethan.

The scandal erupted anew when Michael Hiltzik, a writer for the LA Times, wrote an op-ed reviving the interview and questioning if Wayne should still have an airport named after him.

"It certainly undermines any justification for his name and image to adorn a civic facility."

Not everyone agrees with dredging up old controversies, even among progressives.

Twitter became a battleground for Wayne's fans and those standing up to bigotry. No one is likely to have changed their mind based on what was said. What might change is the name of an airport and how casual movie fans view the man who was once thought of as the "true" American.

I've been writing for Shared for 6 years. Along with my cat Lydia, I search for interesting things to share with you!