Democratic Party of Orange County, Community Organizations, Back John Wayne Airport Name Change

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For Immediate Release

June 30, 2020

Media Contact: Rachel Potucek, (562) 276-8514, rachel@ocdemocrats.org

DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF ORANGE COUNTY, COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS, BACK JOHN WAYNE AIRPORT NAME CHANGE 

ORANGE, Calif. — After hearing calls for action, the Democratic Party of Orange County adopted a resolution calling for John Wayne’s name to be removed from Orange County’s international airport on Thursday, June 26. The resolution was adopted unanimously and can be viewed here.

The actions sparked international debate, even spurred Donald Trump to chime in. In Orange County, the groundswell of support keeps mounting. Organizations have stepped forward in support, including OC NAACP, Human Rights Campaign – Orange County, Long Beach and Palm Springs, CHIRLA (Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights), CAIR-LA (Council on American-Islamic Relations – Los Angeles), the California Democratic Party African-American Caucus, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, OCCORD (Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development), Chicanxs Unidxs, and United Food and Commercial Workers.

Chair Ada Briceño responded to arguments that removing names changes history:

“An airport name should reflect our values, and white supremacy isn’t one of them. John Wayne’s comments were made amid the height of the civil rights era, and we should stand together to condemn them as inexcusable.

Removing a name from a place of honor can’t erase that name from history, nor should it. The debate we’re having today is creating history, and it’s the kind of history we need more of. The important question we must ask ourselves is — if an honorary name does not reflect our ideals and values anymore, why not change it?

Our international airport welcomes people from around the world, and it should reflect all of Orange County. It was called Orange County Airport for more than 40 years before the Board of Supervisors renamed it in 1979. A simple and above all, a moral vote, can change it again. It’s time to do the right thing.”

On Sunday, Calf. State Senator Tom Umberg, a retired U.S. Army Colonel and former federal criminal prosecutor who represents the 34th Senate District in Orange County, published an oped for John Wayne’s name to be removed.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors has authority to change the name of the airport with a vote.

In a lengthy 1971 Playboy interview, John 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.”

About Indigenous communities, Wayne said: “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. … There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

Wayne used a gay slur to describe the lead actors in Midnight Cowboy, and considered the movie and Easy Rider “perverted.”

John Wayne’s 1971 interview remains most frequently cited for his admitted racist views, but is not the only indication of his extreme conservatism. In this 1974 video John Wayne expresses similar views. in an 1976 interview, Kirk Douglas admitted “we have never seen eye to eye on a lot of things”, and in early 2016, when the Republican Presidential candidate field was wide open, John Wayne’s daughter endorsed Donald Trump in Iowa, saying, “If John Wayne were around he’d be standing right here instead of me. “

Protest over John Wayne’s fit for honorary status have mounted in recent years. In 2016, a proposed “John Wayne Day” was rejected by the California Assembly. In 2019, USC students pushed for Wayne’s exhibit to be removed from campus. That same year, the Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register published opinion pieces calling for the airport name to be changed.

About the Democratic Party of Orange County

Once famously known as “Reagan country,” after President Reagan called Orange County the place where “all good Republicans go to die,” Orange County is rapidly shifting from a Republican stronghold into a highly diverse Democratic metropolis. 

Chair Ada Briceno, a longtime labor organizer, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11, and recently elected Democratic National Committee member, is the first immigrant and second Latina to lead the Democratic Party of Orange County. Her executive leadership team includes Latino, Asian American, millennial, and LGBT representation. 

Orange County is a nationally-watched 2020 battleground for control of the U.S. House, and a critical battleground for expanding Democratic leadership in California. The DCCC opened a field office in Irvine in 2019, and the California Democratic Party opened two coordinated campaign offices – in Brea and Huntington Beach – in 2020. 

Democrats swept all seven Congressional seats in Orange County in 2018. Less than a year later, Democrats overtook countywide voter registration to become the region’s leading political party. Today, OC Democrats have gained more than a 2-point voter advantage over the GOP.

Orange County is the nation’s sixth largest county, with 3.2 million residents and more than half a million registered Democratic voters. 

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