President Trump on Monday criticized Princeton University for erasing the name of Woodrow Wilson from its campus and Democrats for trying to rename John Wayne Airport in Southern California, both movements in response to the men’s racist attitudes.
“Can anyone believe that Princeton just dropped the name of Woodrow Wilson from their highly respected policy center,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Now the Do Nothing Democrats want to take off the name John Wayne from an airport. Incredible stupidity!”
His tweet came a day after Mr. Trump tweeted, then deleted, a video of a Trump supporter yelling “white power” at anti-Trump protesters in Florida. The White House said the president hadn’t noticed the comment.
Princeton’s board of trustees voted on Friday to rename its policy school the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, removing the name of the nation’s 28th president from the school. A residential college formerly named for him will be known as “First College” instead.
The university said Wilson’s “racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school whose scholars, students, and alumni must be firmly committed to combating the scourge of racism in all its forms.”
Wilson was formerly governor of New Jersey and president of Princeton. Current university President Christopher Eisgruber said Wilson “segregated the federal civil service after it had been racially integrated for decades, thereby taking America backward in its pursuit of justice.”
“He not only acquiesced in but added to the persistent practice of racism in this country, a practice that continues to do harm today,” he said.
Democrats in Orange County, California, want John Wayne’s name and a statue removed from the county’s airport. The county party passed a resolution on Friday.
They cite Wayne’s stated support of white supremacy in a 1971 interview in Playboy magazine in which he professed negative views of Blacks.
“I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility,” Wayne said at the time. “I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”
He said of slavery, “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 will say this, though: 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.”
The Orange County Board of Supervisors has the final decision on renaming the airport. Wayne died in 1979, the same year the airport was named for him.
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