Trump accuses California Democrats of 'incredible stupidity' in row over John Wayne's white supremacy remarks

John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn in the 1969 film version of Charles Portis' novel: Corbis
John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn in the 1969 film version of Charles Portis' novel: Corbis

Donald Trump is accusing some Democratic officials of "incredible stupidity" for calling for actor John Wayne's name to be removed from an airport in California even after an interview resurfaced of "The Duke" embracing white supremacy.

John Wayne Airport in southern California serves Orange County and Los Angeles. Mr Trump in January 2016, as a presidential candidate, held a special event at the John Wayne Birthplace Museum in Winterset, Iowa. He spoke at a lectern with a wax statue of the late actor behind him.

After being introduced by Wayne's daughter, the GOP candidate called himself a "longtime fan" of the star of many hit Western films.

"We love John Wayne," Mr Trump said that day. "We love John Wayne and we love his family equally, right? Equally."

But amid ongoing protests and other social changes following the death of George Floyd, a black man, under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis, Mr Trump's full embrace of Wayne could give him yet another political headache.

That's because of a 1971 interview the actor conducted with Playboy magazine.

"With a lot of blacks, there's quite a bit of resentment along with their dissent, and possibly rightfully so. But we can't all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks," Mr Wayne 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."

"I don't feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago these people were slaves. Now, I'm not condoning slavery. It's just a fact of life, like the kid who gets infantile paralysis and has to wear braces so he can't play football with the rest of us," he added. "I will say this, though: I think any black who can compete with a white today can get a better break than a white man. I wish they'd tell me where in the world they have it better than right here in America."

Wayne died in 1979 aged 72.

Democratic Party of Orange County (DPOC) issued an emergency resolution to rename the airport, due to a number of racist comments the actor, born Marion Robert Morrison, made.

"Orange County is now a diverse region far different from the time when John Wayne was chosen as namesake for the airport," the Democratic Party of Orange County said in a statement.

The local party's chairman, Ada Briceño called the proposal to change the name "a national movement to remove white supremacist symbols and names [that are] reshaping American institutions, monuments, businesses, non-profits, sports leagues and teams."

Mr Trump responded in a Monday morning tweet by continuing his resistance to the protests and calls for other social changes.

"Can anyone believe that Princeton just dropped the name of Woodrow Wilson from their highly respected policy centre," he wrote. "Now the Do Nothing Democrats want to take off the name John Wayne from an airport. Incredible stupidity!"

Mr Trump's push back on the protests and toppling of statues of Confederate generals and leaders, and others that protesters view as having owned slaves or otherwise supported racism, appears yet another gesture to his conservative – and mostly white – voting base.

A recent Pew Research Center survey found 67 per cent of those surveyed support the Black Lives Matter movement. Other polls have recorded similar attitudes.

But Mr Trump's resistance likely is reflected in this finding of the Pew survey, according to a summary crafted by the organisation: "Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to say protesters have been motivated by longstanding concerns about the treatment of black people."

Read more

Trump denies he was breifed on Russia-Taliban ‘bounty plan’

US states race to reimpose lockdowns as Covid infections pass 2.5m

Pelosi strikes Trump on Russian bounties on US soldiers in Afghanistan

Trump shares video of 'great people' shouting 'white power' at protest

Rolling Stones threaten Trump with legal action over music use