Push for Las Vegas McCarran International Airport to be renamed due to racist, anti-Semitic namesake

Senator Pat McCarran, McCarran Airport, Vegas Sign
Senator Pat McCarran, McCarran Airport, Vegas Sign Photo credit: Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved the renaming of Las Vegas' international airport after a campaign claiming its current name endorses anti-Semitism, xenophobia and wild conspiracy theories.

Known now as McCarran International, the airport is named after former senator Pat McCarran. He served as a Democrat, despite once supporting a Republican candidate for president, from 1933 until his death in 1954.

A book written by Michael J Ybarra entited Washington Gone Crazy: Senator Pat McCarran and the Great American Communist Hunt, shines the light on some of the reasons why the local community are keen for a name change.

Obsessed with the possibility of communism, McCarran wanted to close America's doors to people he believed posed any risk to its democracy.

"Untold millions are storming our gates for admission and those gates are cracking under the strain. The solution of the problems of Europe and Asia will not come through a transplanting of those problems en masse to the United States," he once said in a speech.

He reportedly even went as far as as blocking Holocaust survivors from entering the US, saying Jews were a potential threat to the US way of life. 

"I think one American boy, the son of an American mother, is worth more than all of Central Europe," the book quotes McCarran as saying.

While the FAA's clearance to rename the airport is a significant step, the campaign will still need to find the money to fund the name change - including the cost of rebranding and any new signage - a cost that's expected to exceed US$7 million.

The campaign team has put forward the new name of Harry Reid International Airport. Reid is also a Democrat and served until 2015.

However, some locals have suggested the name should simply be changed to Las Vegas International Airport.

According to the FAA, McCarran International Airport was the seventh busiest airport in the US in 2020.

At this stage there is no deadline for any final decision.