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Nearly two months after Liam Neeson’s story of considering racist revenge lit up the entertainment news cycle, the actor is again apologizing for his “hurtful and divisive” comments.
“Over the last several weeks, I have reflected on and spoken to a variety of people who were hurt by my impulsive recounting of a brutal rape of a dear female friend nearly 40 years ago and my unacceptable thoughts and actions at that time in response to this crime,” he wrote in his apology Friday. “The horror of what happened to my friend ignited irrational thoughts that do not represent the person I am. In trying to explain those feelings today, I missed the point and hurt many people at a time when language is so often weaponized and an entire community of innocent people are targeted in acts of rage.”
Neeson continued, “What I failed to realize is that this is not about justifying my anger all those years ago, it is also about the impact my words have today. I was wrong to do what I did. I recognize that, although the comments I made do not reflect, in any way, my true feelings nor me, they were hurtful and divisive. I profoundly apologize.”
The uproar began in February, when Neeson told The Independent that years ago, after a friend told him she had been raped by a black man, he roamed his hometown “hoping some ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me” so that he could “kill him” in a profile pegged to his latest film, the revenge saga Cold Pursuit. Though Neeson framed those feelings as a lesson that he learned from (“I just thought, ‘What the fuck are you doing?'” he told the publication) and a lesson that revenge “leads to more killing,” outrage was instantaneous, leading to stories such as “Liam Neeson’s Racist Revenge Fantasy Is Yet Another Example of Indiscriminate White Terror” (Essence) and “Separate, but Equally Dangerous: How the Jussie Smollett and Liam Neeson Controversies Reinforce Racist Narratives About Black Men” (The Root), as well as widespread censure on social media.
In the fallout, Neeson appeared on Good Morning America to apologize for the comments: “I’m not a racist,” he told host Robin Roberts, adding that his feelings “shocked me and it hurt me…. I did seek help, I went to a priest.” He also expressed hope that his story would be a teachable moment to warn people against racism and bigotry.
Cold Pursuit director Hans Petter Moland stood up for the Taken star in the wake of the comments, telling The Hollywood Reporter at the Berlin International Film Festival, “I know Liam is not a racist. From my experience though he is extremely honest — even at his own expense.” The Daily Show‘s Trevor Noah also aired a segment that credited Neeson for his “powerful admission.”
Still, furor was so intense that the red carpet for New York City’s premiere of Cold Pursuit was canceled. A person familiar with the matter told The Hollywood Reporter that the red carpet wouldn’t be appropriate under the circumstances.
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