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This didn’t help.
Actor Liam Neeson sat down for an interview with The Independent in which his comments received tons of backlash from many people.
His comments came after speaking about his reaction after learning a friend was raped 40 years ago.
It was some time ago. Neeson had just come back from overseas to find out about the rape. “She handled the situation of the rape in the most extraordinary way,” Neeson says. “But my immediate reaction was…” There’s a pause. “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 [Neeson gestures air quotes with his fingers] ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could,” another pause, “kill him.”
Today (Feb. 5) the actor decided to clear up his comments on Good Morning America, where he sat down with Robin Roberts to declare that he was not racist, after those comments went viral late last night.
“We were doing a press junket and the topic of our film was revenge,” he said. “The lady journalist was asking, ‘How do you tap in to that?’ and I remembered an incident nearly 40 years ago when a friend of mine was brutally raped I was out of the country and when I came back she told me about this … I had never felt this feeling before which was a primal urge to lash out.”
He continued, “I went out deliberately into black areas in the city looking to be set upon so I could unleash physical violence. I did it maybe four or five times until I caught myself, and it really shocked me — this primal urge I had. I shocked me and it hurt me.”
He later claimed that he was not racist.
“I’m not racist,” he said. “This was nearly 40 years ago. I was brought up in Northern Ireland … there was a war going on, and I had acquaintances who were involved in the troubles, in the bigotry. I grew up surrounded by that. I was part of it.”
“If she said [the rapist was] Irish, a Scot, a Lituanian, [it] would have had the same effect,” he continued. “I was trying to show honor and stand up for my dear friend in this horrible medieval fashion … Thankfully no violence occurred ever.”
Roberts then tried to get Neeson to understand the pain his words caused in the black community.
“You have to also understand the pain of a black person hearing what you said,” she addressed to the actor. He responded.
“At the time, even though it was nearly 40 years ago, I didn’t think of it,” he said. “All those things surprised me. It was this primal hatred … It shook me … Violence breeds violence. Bigotry breeds bigotry.”