Northern Irish actor Liam Neeson sought to defend himself against charges of racism Tuesday after giving a controversy-laden interview in which he said he sought revenge on any black man he could find after someone close to him was raped.
“I’m not racist,” Neeson said during an interview on Good Morning America. “This was nearly 40 years ago.”
The Taken star told the British newspaper The Independent during a press tour for his forthcoming movie that he had sought to carry out a revenge plot on a random black person after his close friend told him she was raped by a black man who she could not identify.
Neeson recounted the series of events again Tuesday morning.
“There were some nights I went out deliberately into black areas in the city looking to be set upon so that I could unleash physical violence. And I did it for, I’d say maybe, four or five times until I caught myself. And it really shocked me — this primal urge I had. It shocked me and it hurt me,” he said.
The actor said if the woman, who he did not identify, had said the attacker was white, he would have sought out someone of that race.
“If she had said an Irish, or a Scot, or a Brit or a Lithuanian, I know I would have felt the same effect,” he said. “I was trying to show honor to my, stand up for my dear friend in this terrible medieval fashion. I’m a fairly intelligent guy, and that’s why it kind of shocked me when I came down to Earth after having these horrible feelings.”
Neeson said he sought help from a priest and friends to pull him out of the dark spiral.
His initial comments had drawn outrage online, including from black actor Terry Crews, who said apparently sarcastically on Twitter: “Hmmmm. Reminds me of a time I got provoked by a rich white guy I didn’t know. Hoping I would do something.”