Laura Ingraham Goes All In on the Duke

"Sometimes it isn’t being fast that counts, or even accurate; but willing."—John Wayne
February 21, 2019
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Laura Ingraham at the Republican National Convention. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Let’s stipulate for a moment that John Wayne’s 1971 Playboy interview is news (which is apparently unrelated to the word “new”) and that, seeing as it was published in Playboy, anyone actually read it. Both of these things are doubtful, but work with me here.

It was apparently news enough to be a segment on Laura Ingraham’s show, “Scholars and Role Models of Whom Our Audience Can Be Proud.” No, wait, that’s not right…

Ingraham’s guest, Raymond Arroyo, quoted Wayne’s most objectionable statement from the interview:

With a lot of blacks, there’s quite a bit of resentment along with their dissent, and possibly rightfully so. But 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. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.

His purpose wasn’t to explain why the quote isn’t worth our attention right now, though. Arroyo repeated the quote approvingly, and went on to defend it. It’s wrong, he argued, to denounce the Duke’s memory, because “We’re judging the past in light of shifting moral, ethic [sic] and cultural codes of today.”

Are we? The 14th and 15th Amendments guaranteed full citizenship and voting rights to all Americans in 1869 and 1870, respectively. Segregation was outlawed in the 1950s. Thurgood Marshall joined the the Supreme Court in 1967, the same year that Major Robert Henry Lawrence became America’s first black astronaut. Wayne was behind his own time, to say nothing of today.

Arroyo was doing such a stellar job defending Wayne that Ingraham decided to chime in: “They’re either defacing statues or pulling them down.” An earlier portion of the segment had discussed the defacing of a statue including George Mendonsa and memorializing the end of World War II, so it is at least theoretically possible that Ingraham knows the difference between a real-life human and a stone likeness. Maybe she was so proud of her incisive commentary about the statue that she zoned out through the entire Wayne discussion.

“This is what the Taliban does,” she fumed. “The Taliban used to rip down historical markers, destroy churches – ISIS did the same thing, does the same thing.”

If at this point you lost track of what Ingraham and her guest were talking about, you’re not alone.

She waited until the end of the segment to make her lone worthwhile utterance on the Wayne matter: The interview was published 48 years ago, and isn’t a pressing issue today. This point may have been more effective if it hadn’t come at the end of a cable news segment about the very story that is supposedly not news.

Loyal Ingraham viewers will remember her racist diatribe from August:

In some parts of the country, it does seem like the America we know and love doesn’t exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people. And they’re changes that none of us ever voted for and most of us don’t like. From Virginia to California, we see stark examples of how radically in some ways the country has changed. Now much of this is related to both illegal, and in some cases, legal immigration that, of course, progressives love.

She later clarified that her comment “had nothing to do with race or ethnicity.” And yet, for some reason, she works overtime to make race and ethnicity an issue on her show.

Benjamin Parker

Benjamin Parker is a senior editor at The Bulwark.