Democrats want Orange County to drop the Duke
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.
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.