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John Wayne Day scrapped over race row

Do Not UseDo Not Use 29/04/2016
John Wayne © Getty Images John Wayne

Plans to declare 26 May as John Wayne Day in California have been rejected over racist comments the actor made when he was alive.

The Oscar-winner made his name playing tough cowboys and heroic soldiers in films including The Alamo, True Grit and The Green Berets.

But in a State Assembly vote several legislators objected to having a day commemorating his birthday due to his "disturbing views towards race".

The resolution was lost by 36-19 votes.

Republican State Assemblyman Matthew Harper had put forward the proposal, following a Texas resolution commemorating Wayne's birthday passed last year. Wayne died in 1979, aged 72.

Assemblyman Luis Alejo was among those against the proposal, citing a 1971 interview the actor made with Playboy where he was quoted as saying: "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 also cited the same interview where Wayne defended white Europeans' encroachment on Native American land.

"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," the actor said.

Wayne's support for the anti-communist House Un-American Activities Committee and the far right John Birch Society were also brought up.

'Political correctness'

After the defeat Mr Harper said the proposal failed due to "the orthodoxy of political correctness".

"Opposing the John Wayne Day resolution is like opposing apple pie, fireworks, baseball, the Free Enterprise system and the Fourth of July," he said.

Assemblyman Travis Allen was among those who supported the proposal, saying Wayne "stood for those big American values that we know and we love".

And Assemblyman Donald Wagner pointed out others had been honoured despite controversies in their past, mentioning President Franklin Roosevelt who had been honoured despite his internment of Japanese Americans during World War Two.

The John Wayne Day row comes a week after it was announced the face of former US president and slave owner Andrew Jackson would be removed from the front of the US $20 bill and be replaced by freed slave and anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman.

Also this month Princeton University announced it would keep former President Woodrow Wilson's name on one of its buildings despite calls to remove it because he was a segregationist and held racist views.

The university decided that President Wilson's accomplishments deserved to be recognised along with his faults.

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