Irish actor Liam Neeson has insisted he is not racist after facing a global backlash for shockingly revealing violent thoughts about killing a black person.
Neeson, 66, declared “I’m not racist”, a day after disclosing that his friend’s brutal rape some 40 years ago made him walk the streets armed with a weapon hoping to murder some “black bastard”.
The Taken star did not offer an apology for the racially charged remarks when he appeared on Good Morning America on Wednesday morning (Australian time), saying his comments were taken out of context.
Still, the red carpet for Neeson’s new action movie Cold Pursuit has been canceled amid the fallout, although the premiere in New York will continue as scheduled according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“I was brought up in Northern Ireland. The Troubles. The 60s, 70s and 80s. There was a war going on in the north of Ireland,” Neeson said in his defence.
“I had acquaintances who were involved in the Troubles, the bigotry. One Catholic would be killed, the next day a Protestant would be killed … I grew up surrounded by that.”
However some Twitter users felt Neeson “made it worse”, by making up “excuses” for why he thought about killing a black person.
Liam Neeson just went on ABC news, told the *exact* same story again, almost word-for-word, and then said he got over it by "power walking".
— Harry Harris (@CmonHarris) February 5, 2019
Liam Neeson is CANCELLED. These answers are full of excuses. #GMA
— jonathanc__ (@ayewhatsupjon_) February 5, 2019
Neeson, who will soon be seen in the film Cold Pursuit, was discussing how his character turns to anger when he told UK national newspaper The Independent: “There’s something primal – God forbid you’ve ever had a member of your family hurt under criminal conditions. I’ll tell you a story. This is true.”
He said the incident happened some time ago and he found out about it after he came back from a trip abroad.
He said of his friend: “She handled the situation of the rape in the most extraordinary way.
“But my immediate reaction was … I asked, did she know who it was? ‘No’. ‘What colour were they?’ She said it was a black person.
“I went up and down areas with a cosh, hoping I’d be approached by somebody – I’m ashamed to say that – and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some black bastard would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could kill him.”
Neeson called his reaction “horrible,” saying it taught him a lesson about the “primal need” for revenge.
“It was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that,” he said.
“I come from a society – I grew up in Northern Ireland in the Troubles – and, you know, I knew a couple of guys that died on hunger strike, and I had acquaintances who were very caught up in the Troubles, and I understand that need for revenge.
“But it just leads to more revenge, to more killing and more killing, and Northern Ireland’s proof of that.”