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The first shots may have been fired in a war against “The Duke.” A debate is now underway over whether a Southern California airport should bear the name of screen legend John Wayne, who died nearly 40 years ago at age 72. The discussion stems from the recent social-media uproar that followed the resurfacing of a 1971 Playboy interview in which Wayne made remarks that critics described as racist and homophobic.
John Wayne Airport is located in Orange County, where Wayne lived for most of his adult life. The airport, previously named Orange County Airport, has been the subject of debate in the past, but mostly over concerns that the Wayne name fails to convey the airstrip’s location in Santa Ana.
The latest calls for changing the name stem from Wayne’s remarks, made at age 63, that he believed in “white supremacy,” at least until “irresponsible” black people became more educated, and that Native Americans were “selfishly” trying to keep their land. When asked which films he considered perverted, Wayne listed 1969’s “Easy Rider” and “Midnight Cowboy,” before using anti-gay slurs in further discussing the films.
The article goes on to state the following:
Wayne’s defenders say it’s unfair to judge the actor on comments from nearly 50 years ago when he is no longer alive to respond to the criticism.
“Removing his name from Orange County’s airport now only validates what many Americans are coming to believe: You can’t say anything anymore, darn it, without being discovered and punished by the mob,” Madeline Fry wrote in the Washington Examiner.
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