Democrats want Orange County to drop the Duke

San Francisco Chronicle - - NATION - By Andrew J. Campa Andrew J. Campa is a Los An­ge­les Times writer.

SANTA ANA — Lead­ers of Orange County’s Demo­cratic Party have passed an emer­gency res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing film leg­end John Wayne’s “racist and big­oted state­ments” made decades ago and are call­ing on the Orange County Board of Su­per­vi­sors to drop his name, statue and other like­nesses from the in­ter­na­tional air­port.

The res­o­lu­tion also asked the board “to re­store its orig­i­nal name: Orange County Air­port.”

“There have been past ef­forts to get this done and now we’re putting our name and our back­ing into this to make sure there is a name change,” said Ada Bri­ceno, chair of the Demo­cratic Party of Orange County.

Ac­cord­ing to the crafters of the res­o­lu­tion, who in­clude Bri­ceno, the ef­fort to oust Wayne is part of “a na­tional move­ment to re­move white su­prem­a­cist sym­bols and names (that are) re­shap­ing Amer­i­can in­sti­tu­tions, mon­u­ments, busi­nesses, non­prof­its, sports leagues and teams.”

The res­o­lu­tion notes that the county is much more di­verse than it was in 1979, when Orange County Air­port was chris­tened John Wayne Air­port.

Democrats point to a Chap­man Univer­sity sur­vey re­leased ear­lier this year that said 79% of county res­i­dents be­lieve “that O.C.’S in­creas­ing eth­nic di­ver­sity is a source of great strength for the re­gion.”

At the heart of the lat­est drive is a widely dis­cussed 1971 Play­boy In­ter­view in which Wayne makes big­oted state­ments against Black peo­ple, Na­tive Amer­i­cans and the LGBTQ com­mu­nity.

He in­fa­mously said, “I be­lieve in white supremacy un­til the blacks are ed­u­cated to a point of re­spon­si­bil­ity. I don’t be­lieve in giv­ing author­ity and po­si­tions of lead­er­ship and judg­ment to irresponsi­ble peo­ple.”

Wayne, known to fans as the Duke, later said that al­though he didn’t con­done slav­ery, “I don’t feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 gen­er­a­tions ago th­ese peo­ple were slaves.”

He also con­sid­ered movies such as “Easy Rider” and “Mid­night Cow­boy” per­verted, and used a gay slur to re­fer to the two main char­ac­ters of the lat­ter film.

Bri­ceno be­lieves the re­nam­ing is pos­si­ble be­cause of two fac­tors: chang­ing de­mo­graph­ics and the wave of protests fol­low­ing the po­lice killing of Ge­orge Floyd.

Last year, reg­is­tered Democrats out­num­bered reg­is­tered Repub­li­cans in the county that em­braced Wayne and GOP Pres­i­dents Ron­ald Rea­gan and Richard Nixon.

“The numbers have grown since last year to where I be­lieve we have some­thing like 40,000 more Democrats than Repub­li­cans,” Bri­ceno said.

Wayne lived a good por­tion of his life in New­port Beach, was a county po­lit­i­cal power bro­ker, a mem­ber of the John Birch So­ci­ety and was buried in the city after his death in 1979.

Mark Boster / Los An­ge­les Times 2007

Sil­ver screen leg­end John Wayne is im­mor­tal­ized in a bronze statue at the Orange County air­port that bears his name. Democrats are push­ing county su­per­vi­sors to re­move the trib­utes.

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