Liam Neeson says he’s ‘not racist’ after controversial interview

Liam NeesonImage copyright Getty Images

Liam Neeson has denied he is racist, after admitting he once set out to kill any black man who provoked him.

The actor has been facing a major racism storm since he made the comments in an interview, published by The Independent on Monday.

He said he walked the streets with a weapon around 40 years ago, hoping to take out his anger after someone close to him was raped by a black man.

But speaking on ABC’s Good Morning America, Neeson said: “I’m not racist.”

The Hollywood star told ABC’s Robin Roberts on Tuesday that around 40 years ago, one of his close female friends told him she had been raped.

Image copyright Comic Relief
Image caption The Love Actually actor has starred in several revenge-themed films in recent years

That friend, Neeson added, passed away five years ago.

Neeson said his friend’s alleged rape made him want to take violent action.

He said: “I had never felt this feeling before which was a primal urge to lash out, and I asked her, ‘did you know the person, was it a man?’ No. ‘Race?’ She said it was a black man.”

The actor said he “went out deliberately into black areas in the city looking to be set upon so that I could unleash physical violence”.

He added: “I did it maybe four or five times.”

The Taken star claimed he would have acted in the same way if his friend’s assailant had been white.

He told ABC: “If she had said an Irish or a Scot or a Brit or a Lithuanian I would – I know I would – have had the same effect. I was trying to show honour, to stand up for my dear friend in this terribly medieval fashion.”

Neeson said of his actions: “It shocked me and it hurt me. I did seek help.”

Image copyright Lionsgate
Image caption Neeson alongside Tom Bateman in Cold Pursuit

The actor said he went to confession, and went power walking for two hours every day, to try to work through his anger.

Independent’s interview

Neeson has been subject to huge criticism, since comments he made during an interview with The Independent were published on Monday.

He was speaking to promote his new film Cold Pursuit, a thriller about a man who seeks retribution after his son is murdered.

Asked how his character turns to anger, the actor replied that “something primal” kicks in when someone close to you is a victim of violence.

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Media captionListen to Liam Neeson’s comments that sparked the outrage

Los Angeles Times columnist Carla Hall wrote that Neeson’s conduct was “despicable”, adding that she now wants him to talk about whether he has dealt with “whatever racism he still harbours”.

She wrote: “Was he a racist or just a tightly wound man capable of vindictive violence? Or was he both? Of course, he was a racist. He was roaming the streets trying to find a random black man to kill.

But in the ABC interview, Neeson claimed he wanted his original comments to start a wider conversation about racism.

Asked what he wanted people to learn from his experience, he told the host: “To talk. To open up.

“We all pretend we’re all politically correct in this country…in mine, too. You sometimes just scratch the surface and you discover this racism and bigotry and it’s there. “

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