John Wayne: Cancel Culture–Removing John (the Duke) Wayne Statue and Rename Airport


A statue of “The Duke” at Orange County’s John Wayne Airport.
Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
A statue of “The Duke” at Orange County’s John Wayne Airport.

In June, the news agency Voice of Orange County published an op-ed written by Chapman University professors Fred Smoller and Michael Moodian calling for John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana to be renamed.

They cited racist comments made by former Newport resident John Wayne, particularly in a 1971 Playboy interview in which he voiced his support of white supremacy.


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According to Moodian, Wayne’s brand of bigoted, conservative masculinity represents the “old Orange County,” rather than the increasingly diverse and progressive O.C. of today. “They’re hateful comments, and it’s a really poor representation of who we are,” says Moodian. “It’s the wrong imagery for people who travel here. There’s this stereotype about the county to begin with, and then to top it off you name the airport after somebody who said rotten things about African Americans, Native Americans and the LBGTQ+ community — for us it’s an issue of branding.”

Stars including George Takei and Sharon Osbourne voiced their support, while Trump tweeted that the proposal was “incredible stupidity!” The O.C. Democratic Party also adopted a resolution supporting the renaming. But Moodian points out that most Orange County politicians are wary of pushing the issue. “At the end of the day, the politicians didn’t want to touch it,” he says.

However, in July, USC removed an exhibit dedicated to Wayne, an alum, that had been up since 2012, bowing to student pressure.

Moodian predicts Wayne’s name will be removed from O.C.’s airport, at some point: “It didn’t happen this year, but I’ve got a 5-year-old Latino son. I’ll be very surprised if by the time he’s 30, he’s still living in an area with the airport named after John Wayne.”