Trump showed up for the endorsement, as John Wayne remains a conservative icon more than 35 years after his death. Wayne's star shines on among Republicans in spite of the fact that he had some really not-so-progressive ideas about race, as the recent re-surfacing of several damning interviews with the actor have reminded us.
In a May 1971 interview with Playboy, for example, Wayne comes across as, at best, an old crank and, at worst, as an outright racist and homophobe.
On the 1970 Best Picture Winner, Midnight Cowboy (responding to the question of what types of films he considered "perverted"):
Wouldn't you say that the wonderful love of those two men in Midnight Cowboy, a story about two fags, qualifies?
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.
The academic community has developed certain tests that determine whether the blacks are sufficiently equipped scholastically. But some blacks have tried to force the issue and enter college when they haven't passed the tests and don't have the requisite background.
I don't feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago these people were slaves. Now, I'm not condoning slavery. It's just a fact of life, like the kid who gets infantile paralysis and has to wear braces so he can't play football with the rest of us.
I think any black who can compete with a white today can get a better break than a white man. I wish they'd tell me where in the world they have it better than right here in America.
In light of the Academy Awards not nominating a person of color in any acting categories for a second year in a row, Wayne's comments are emblematic of the sort of thinking that allowed something like that to happen repeatedly in Hollywood's Golden Age. Asked what he thinks of the perceived color barrier in Hollywood at the time, he says:
I've directed two pictures and I gave the blacks their proper position. I had a black slave in The Alamo, and I had a correct number of blacks in The Green Berets. If it's supposed to be a black character, naturally I use a black actor. But I don't go so far as hunting for positions for them. I think the Hollywood studios are carrying their tokenism a little too far. There's no doubt that 10 percent of the population is black, or colored, or whatever they want to call themselves; they certainly aren't Caucasian. Anyway, I suppose there should be the same percentage of the colored race in films as in society. But it can't always be that way. There isn't necessarily going to be 10 percent of the grips or sound men who are black, because more than likely, 10 percent haven't trained themselves for that type of work.
It's just as hard for a white man to get a card in the Hollywood craft unions.
Wayne didn't only repeatedly offend African-Americans in the interview though. He also manages to call Native Americans "selfish" when asked if he feels any empathy for them:
I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that’s what you’re asking. 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.
Look, I'm sure there have been inequalities. If those inequalities are presently affecting any of the Indians now alive, they have a right to a court hearing. But what happened 100 years ago in our country can't be blamed on us today.
Wayne pivots a question about Indian reservations and dehumanization into a short response about how the socialists want to put everyone on reservations. Then in referring to takeover of Alcatraz by Native American activists and whether they should be given the land, he remarks that it's a great idea if they pay for it, adding, "I hope they haven't been careless with their wampum."
To sum it up, Wayne meant every word:
I’ve always followed my father’s advice: He told me, first, to always keep my word and, second, to never insult anybody unintentionally. If I insult you, you can be goddamn sure I intend to.
Aissa Wayne said in her endorsement, "If John Wayne were around, he'd be standing right here instead of me." As we've seen time and again on the campaign trail and at Trump rallies, she's probably right.
David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on Fusion.net—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org