California Assemblyman Matthew Harper (R) blamed a “handful of the most radical and Left Wing Assembly Democrats” who “rose to assassinate the character of one of America’s most well-known Anti-Communists” for the defeat of his legislation meant to honor actor John Wayne.
Harper was taken aback, to put it mildly, by the opposition to his resolution to make May 26, the actor’s birthday, John Wayne Day in California. Harper said he only wanted to highlight Wayne’s service to “the American values of integrity, perseverance, and self-reliance.”
John Wayne’s family, through a Facebook post signed by Ethan Wayne, said they were more than shocked by the rejection of Harper’s resolution — they felt the memory of the patriarch of their family was insulted by the debate.
“You must be out of your racist mind,” wrote one of Harper’s Facebook followers, Sheridan Johnson.
“In my book, opposing this resolution is like opposing white supremacy, the KKK, segregation, slavery, lynchings and Ronald Reagan,” Johnson wrote. “Would love to send you back in time, let’s say 1920, as a black man and let you experience what it feels to be treated as a 2nd class citizen. Bet you would change your tune about your beloved Duke.”
Several State Assembly Democrats were no less indignant.
“He (John Wayne) had disturbing views towards race,” the AP reported Assemblyman Luis Alejo said as the Democrat started a 20-minute debate.
Alejo also pointed to a 1971 Playboy interview in which Wayne was quoted as 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.”
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a Democrat from San Diego, cited what Wayne said about American Indians as she explained her vote against ACR137.
“I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them if that’s what you’re asking,” Wayne told Playboy. “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.”
Not all of the Assembly Democrats voted against Harper’s resolution. Twenty-four of the 52 Democrats abstained from the vote; another seven voted for it.
John Wayne’s son, Ethan, wrote on his Facebook page that the family didn’t participate in the Assembly debate only because they didn’t know of Harper’s effort. If they had known, Ethan wrote, they would have traveled to Sacramento to defend his father.
“It’s unfair to judge someone on something that was said 44 years ago in an entirely different era. I know that my father, John Wayne, had a great respect for all people no matter what color race or sexual preference they were,” Ethan Wayne wrote.
“I hope that America remembers John Wayne for who he really was — a family man, a great friend, a cherished actor on the big screen, for his values and morals that have made him a role model for many and his continuing work to find a cure for cancer through the John Wayne Cancer Foundation and the John Wayne Cancer Institute,” Wayne added.
In the end, Harper had to admit left-wing Democrats won the day, and John Wayne will not get his day, at least in California. The resolution failed on a 35-20 vote.
The Texas Legislature didn’t have a problem declaring May 26, Wayne’s birthday, as John Wayne Day in the Lone Star State last year.
“To me,” said Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, “when you think of Texas you think of John Wayne. Not only does he embody our proud traditions and rich history but the fundamental can-do spirit and persevering attitude of our state.”
But that was Texas. This is California.
“Opposing the John Wayne Day resolution is like opposing apple pie, fireworks, baseball, the Free Enterprise system, and the Fourth of July!” Harper said in a statement. “This is the day that political correctness prevailed over a profoundly American figure recognized throughout the world.”
It may have already been on his schedule, but Harper noted on his Facebook page that he followed up the defeat by throwing out the first pitch “for a game of America’s favorite pastime, baseball,” at the UC Irvine-CSU Fullerton game.
“While most Americans continue to celebrate John Wayne’s memory as one of our most popular actors and public figures long after his death, the extreme Left Wing political forces in this state turn their backs on a historical figure synonymous with America itself,” Harper said. “Fortunately, I do not believe the citizenry of California would agree with the majority in this chamber.”
Harper represents Orange County, California, which is home to John Wayne Airport.