John Wayne’s son Ethan Wayne defends his father by saying that he “was not a racist” and would have “pulled those officers off George Floyd” in an interview with Fox News on Monday after a movement had been made to rename a California airport named after him. He stated that renaming the airport would be an “injustice.”

The airport had been targeted after a 1971 Playboy interview with John had resurfaced where he said, “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility.” He added, “I don’t feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago these people were slaves.”

Ethan acknowledged the “pain and anger” that his father’s comments had caused, but noted, “The truth is … he did not support ‘white supremacy’ in any way and believed that responsible people should gain power without the use of violence.”

He went on to say, “He called out bigotry when he saw it. He hired and worked with people of all races, creeds, and sexual orientations. John Wayne stood for the very best for all of us — a society that doesn’t discriminate against anyone seeking the American dream.”

Ethan insisted that his father “would be in the forefront demanding fairness and justice for all people. He would have pulled those officers off of George Floyd, because that was the right thing to do. He would stand for everyone’s right to protest and work toward change. The current focus on social justice is absolutely valid and necessary. But attempts by some to use it for political advantage distracts from real opportunities for reform.”

Ada Briceño, the chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County, who had been leading the motion to rename the airport said in a statement, “An international airport that serves millions of people each year should not be named for someone who, in real life, opposed our nation’s values of opportunity and justice for all. Now is the time for change.”

The airpot had been renamed in 1979 after John had died of cancer at age 72. A statue was also put up in his honor in 1982.

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