Readers React: John Wayne stirs tempers almost as much as Donald Trump

John Wayne chats with reporters in Orange County in 1978.

John Wayne chats with reporters in Orange County in 1978.

(Los Angeles Times)

In this era of Donald Trump and political polarization, everyone has a strong opinion on everything. Like John Wayne.

Turns out the Duke was almost promoted to king this week (over the reigning Trump, naturally) when it comes to galvanizing letter writers. A rebuffed effort in Sacramento to designate an official “John Wayne Day” in California prompted more than a dozen readers to pen strongly worded letters on where they stand when it comes to the late actor. Two letters on Wayne were published earlier this week, but responses continued to trickle in. Here are some of those.

Glendora resident Thomas Marchetti addresses Wayne’s critics:

I was deeply troubled by the Assembly refusing to honor Wayne. Democrats used Wayne’s political views as the reason to vote down a ceremonial day in his honor.


The standard attack is to quote a 1971 Playboy interview where Wayne used the term “white supremacy.” The phrase was over the top, but he was answering a question on political power sharing with black communist Angela Davis and the Black Panthers. Wayne rejected any cooperation with 1960s-style radicals.

The actor was loved by Republicans and Democrats. President Johnson brought Wayne to the White House several times; he personally approved the U.S. military’s assistance in making the film “The Green Berets.” President Carter was also a fan who invited Wayne to his inauguration. In 1979, Congress unanimously voted to honor Wayne with a Congressional Gold Medal. That means liberal icons like Sens. Ted Kennedy and George McGovern voted to honor Wayne.

Lastly, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger inducted Wayne into the California Hall of Fame in 2007.

No, it is not an American tradition -- it is not even normal -- for a whole people to be so deluded.

Steven Schechter, Thousand Oaks

Steven Schechter of Thousand Oaks noticed a trend among Wayne’s conservative fans:

The controversy over “John Wayne Day” highlights a disturbing quality of conservatives: Many of them they prefer illusion to reality, make-believe (open carry at the mall) rather than facing facts.

Why do they prefer actors to real-life heroes? Like Wayne, Reagan never served in combat. They prefer Trump’s make-believe machismo to Sen. John McCain’s true heroism.

Surely this indifference to reality is of a piece with their indifference to facts. Scientists say the Earth is warming? Well, Rush Limbaugh says it’s not, and who cares anyway.


No, it is not an American tradition — it is not even normal — for a whole people to be so deluded. Something has happened, and I’d sure like to know what.

Aliso Viejo resident Kenneth Blain highlights one of Wayne’s unintentionally prescient comments:

Wayne said he didn’t “believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”

Isn’t the question of whether we should give authority to irresponsible people why we are in the mess we are in today?


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