A proposal to honor movie icon John Wayne with a statewide John Wayne Day in California was rejected Thursday by the state Assembly after the measure sparked a heated debate, the AP reports.
Much of the discussion focused on comments the actor made decades ago, including in an interview with Playboy in 1971, that have been characterized by some as racist.
In the Playboy interview, Wayne is quoted saying: “We can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. 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.”
He also commented on the treatment of Native Americans, saying: “I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that’s what you’re asking. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”
The AP report notes that Republican State Assemblyman Matthew Harper of Huntington Beach proposed declaring May 26, 2016 — Wayne’s birthday — to be John Wayne Day. Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, objected, launching a 20-minute debate.
Said Alejo: “He had disturbing views towards race.” Alejo then cited the Playboy interview.
After the proposal went down on a 35-20 vote, Harper blamed “the orthodoxy of political correctness,” according to the AP report. In a statement later, he said: “Opposing the John Wayne Day resolution is like opposing apple pie, fireworks, baseball, the Free Enterprise system and the Fourth of July!”