Actor John Wayne, in one of his most famous western films, The Searchers. Credit: Handout.

The very man who embodied American values and heroism in so many memorable movie roles over the golden age of cinema is now under attack.

Orange County’s Democratic Party has passed an emergency resolution condemning film legend John “Duke” 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 Los Angeles Times reported.

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 Briceño, chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County.

According to the crafters of the resolution, who include Briceño, 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 Times reported.

The resolution adds: “It is widely recognized that racist symbols produce lasting physical and psychological stress and trauma particularly to Black communities, people of color and other oppressed groups.”

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

Democrats point to a Chapman University survey released earlier this year that said 79% of county residents polled 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, the Times reported.

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.”

He 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 felt no remorse in the subjugation of Native Americans, the Times reported.

“I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. … [O]ur so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival,” he said. “There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

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.

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

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

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

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