LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Facing extensive backlash, actor Liam Neeson Tuesday opened up about his racially-charged comments in a recent interview in which he said that he once sought out a random black man to kill to avenge the rape of a friend.
“I’m not racist, this was merely 40 years ago,” Neeson told “Good Morning America.”
In the interview published Monday with the British newspaper The Independent promoting his new film ‘Cold Pursuit,’ the Northern Irish actor said “some time ago” he came home from an international trip to learn that his friend had been raped.
“I asked, did she know who it was?” Liam said in the interview. “No. What color were they? She said it was a black person.”
A then enraged Neeson said he spent about a week walking the streets with a heavy stick looking for any “black b——” that he could “kill.”
“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 told The Independent.
Neeson told GMA Tuesday he would have had the same response if his friend – who has since passed away — had told him her attacker was not black, but was of a different race or ethnic background.
“If she had said an Irish, or a Scot, or a Brit or a Lithuanian, I know it would have had the same effect,” Neeson said. “I was trying to show honor, to stand up for my dear, dear friend. I’m a fairly intelligent guy, and that’s why it kind of shocked me when I came down to earth.”
Neeson told GMA’s Robin Roberts that when he did come back down to earth, he sought help from a Roman Catholic priest and two good friends of his.
“We all pretend we’re all kind of politically correct, you know,” Neeson said. “In this country, same in my own country, sometimes you just scratch the service and sometime you discover this racism and bigotry, and it’s there.”
Meanwhile, in the wake of the comments, the red carpet event for the New York City premiere Tuesday night of Neeson’s film was canceled, according to the Associated Press. The premiere itself will go on as planned.
Neeson’s back catalog includes “Schindler’s List,” “Taken” and “Love Actually.”