WINTERSET, Iowa — 2016 GOP frontrunner and billionaire Donald Trump secured the endorsement of the family of legendary movie star John Wayne—at Wayne’s birthplace.
Aissa Wayne, John Wayne’s daughter, joined Trump at a podium inside the small museum in her father’s hometown here. She said:
Welcome to the John Wayne birthplace. Now, this is the place in Iowa where legends are made. Now we have somebody that I want to welcome personally here to the birthplace of John Wayne, and that is Mr. Donald Trump. Hopefully, for America, he will be the next president of the United State. The reason I am here to support Mr. Trump is because America needs help. We need a strong leader and we need someone like Mr. Trump with leadership qualities, someone with courage, someone that’s strong like John Wayne. And I’ll tell you what, if John Wayne were still here, he’d be standing right here instead of me. So with that, I just want you to welcome Mr. Donald Trump.
When Trump took the podium, he told Aissa Wayne that her father “would be very, very proud of you right now.”
“John Wayne would be, and I’ll tell you what: I’ve been a longtime fan,” Trump — who’s been emulating Wayne’s tough guy image on the campaign trail—said.
“This all began when I came here and it was so fascinating I didn’t want to leave,” Trump said. He added:
Little did I know you’d be endorsing and supporting me. I really appreciate it. This is such an honor. You see what happens—look at the press, this is an amazing accumulation of press. We have three events today, and this is very important to me because I’ve loved John Wayne my whole life. I met him one time and it made such an impression. You talk about bigger than life, right? Come to think of it, there aren’t too many people bigger than life. Who do we have that’s bigger than life? I won’t use some of the names of the actors, but it’s just not the same thing. Not the same thing. It’s an honor. It’s a tremendous honor to have your support and endorsement and I really very much appreciate it very much.
Wayne, who passed away in 1979, was an American icon in film who was honored by the U.S. government twice—with a Congressional Gold Medal and posthumously with the President Medal of Freedom. Wayne remains to this day, according to Harris polling, a staple of American culture thanks to his “tough guy” attitude. In fact, 2015 Harris polling found Wayne is the second most popular movie star still, even though it’s been decades since he made a film. He was also a strong conservative Republican.
Later at the event, when Trump took questions from the press, he walked through how he was “such a fan of John Wayne and again the one meeting I had with him was just an amazing meeting. It was towards the end of his life—he was just an incredible guy. He said some things to me that were very special, so this is a very great honor.”
Trump is in Iowa for a series of events on Tuesday—including the roll-out of a big endorsement in Ames later in the day, which Trump was very cryptic about—but many have speculated Trump will be endorsed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
“I’m a very big fan of Sarah Palin,” Trump said when asked if that’s who’s endorsing him. “That I won’t say, but I am a big fan of Sarah. But I won’t say who it is [that’s endorsing later today].”
The campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) sought to preempt a Palin endorsement of Trump earlier on Tuesday, saying that it would end up being a “blow” to Palin—rather than a blow to Cruz’s campaign, since the 2008 vice presidential nominee could potentially generate enough GOP grassroots support for Trump in the final weeks to take him over the top in Iowa.