What a California lawmaker intended as a benign resolution honoring a late, world-renowned movie icon exploded into an emotional debate over decades-old racist comments, the AP reports. In a 35-20 vote the state Assembly defeated the official ode to John Wayne Thursday after several legislators described statements he made about racial minorities and his support for the anti-communist House Un-American Activities Committee and John Birch Society. Republican State Assemblyman Matthew Harper of Huntington Beach sought to declare May 26, 2016, as John Wayne Day to mark the day the actor (who got his nickname "Duke" as a boy growing up in Glendale, California) was born. But Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, objected, declaring that Wayne "had disturbing views towards race."
Alejo cited a 1971 interview with Playboy in which Wayne talked disparagingly about 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," he told the magazine. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, cited his comments defending white Europeans' encroachment on American Indians, who Wayne once said "were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves." Harper, who represents the legislative district that includes John Wayne Airport in Orange County, later said in a written statement that "opposing the John Wayne Day resolution is like opposing apple pie, fireworks, baseball, the Free Enterprise system and the Fourth of July!"