Liam Neeson appeared on “Good Morning America” on Tuesday to try to make amends for a recent eyebrow-raising interview during which he described a “primal urge” to kill a black man in an act of revenge.
“I’m not racist,” the 66-year-old asserted. “This was nearly 40 years ago.”
The “Cold Pursuit” star, whose interview with the Independent went viral on Monday, repeated his quotes almost verbatim, recalling the rape of a close friend and again contextualized his feelings with the unrest of the ethno-nationalist conflict raging between Catholics and Protestants in his native Northern Ireland at the time.
“I had never felt this feeling before, which was a primal urge to lash out,” the “Taken” franchise star told ABC’s Robin Roberts on Tuesday. “I asked her, did you know the person? It was a man. No. His race. She said he was a black man. And after there were some nights that I went out deliberately into black areas in the city, looking to be set upon so that I could unleash physical violence.”
Neeson said that he did ask about the assailant’s other attributes, which were not mentioned in the original story.
He sought help by going to a priest for confession, speaking with friends and taking up power-walking —”believe it or not” —and said he probably would have reacted the same way had the assailant been white.
“I was trying to show honor, stand up for my dear friend in this terrible medieval fashion,” Neeson said. “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. Luckily, no violence occurred ever, thanks be to God.”
The action star’s intention on Tuesday was to address the issue head on, and Roberts commended him for doing so but still had some skepticism in her voice. Neeson said he hoped “to open up to talk about these things.”
“We all pretend we’re politically correct,” he added. “In this country, it’s the same in my own country. Sometimes we scratch the surface and we discover racism and bigotry and it’s there.”
But when Roberts, who is black, asked him what lesson he learned, he threw it back to her.
“We have to own up,” she said. “This [story] wasn’t discovered by somebody. You admitted this. This isn’t a ‘gotcha.’ So I give you credit there. But also having to acknowledge that the hurt —even though it happened decades ago —the hurt of an innocent black man, knowing that he could’ve been killed for something he did not do because of the color of his skin.”
She urged him to understand the pain of a black person hearing what he said too.
“Violence breeds violence, bigotry breeds bigotry,” Neeson said.