John Wayne was NOT a racist ... at least according to his son, who just weighed in on the controversial debate about renaming the Orange County airport that bears his name.
John's son, Ethan Wayne, says he's trying to set the record straight on the famous cowboy actor, who some say is a racist and bigot and doesn't deserve to have his name on the SoCal airport.
Ethan says of his father ... "John Wayne was not a racist. I know that term is casually tossed around these days, but I take it very seriously. I also understand how we got to this point."
Remember, John told Playboy back in 1971 ... "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."
The infamous quote is one of the reasons the Orange County Democratic Party recently passed a resolution, calling out John's "racist and bigoted statements" and demanding the O.C. Board of Supervisors rename the airport.
Ethan says in a family statement ... "There is no question that the words spoken by John Wayne in an interview 50 years ago have caused pain and anger. They pained him as well, as he realized his true feelings were wrongly conveyed."
He does not say his father was misquoted, and despite the words he spoke to Playboy ... Ethan goes on to say his dad "did not support 'white supremacy' in any way and believed that responsible people should gain power without the use of violence."
John's son is also invoking George Floyd's name to defend his father, saying ... "He would have pulled those officers off of George Floyd, because that was the right thing to do. He would stand for everyone’s right to protest and work toward change."
Ethan says his it would be an "injustice" to judge John based on a single interview and says the big picture paints a much different picture of dad, who he says "called out bigotry when he saw it."
John's son also points to his lasting legacy, the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, and says his name will always embody courage, strength and grit.