LIAM NEESON’S attempted clarification of the controversial comments he made in an interview to promote his new film has been greeted with anger online.
The Irish actor came in for serious criticism following comments made to The Independent claiming he once walked the streets with a weapon looking for “a black b*****d” to kill after a close friend was raped.
Neeson has since gone on to clarify his comments during an appearance on Good Morning America, telling host Robin Roberts:
“A lady journalist asked how I tap into that and I remembered an incident where a very dear friend of mine was brutally raped.
“And I was out of the country. When I came back she told me about this. She handled the situation incredibly bravely. But I never felt this feeling before which was a primal urge to lash out. I asked her did you know the person. It was a man. His race? She said he was a black man.
“I thought OK. And after that, some nights I went out deliberately into black areas in the city looking to be set upon so that I could unleash physical violence. I did it four or five times.”
He went on to explain to Roberts that he sought help from a priest, spoke to his close friends about his anger, adding that he’s “not racist”.
The comments have been met with scorn by many online though.
Actress Kelechi Okafor was among those to express her disappointment at Neeson’s comments, branding them "dangerous."
I’m so disgusted and disappointed. There are white men around the world who til today, walk around looking for black people to harm. Liam Neeson’s account is a stark reminder of that.
— Kelechi (@kelechnekoff) February 5, 2019
We are having dangerous conversations with no measures in place for the emotional distress it causes black people.
What would Stephen Lawrence’s parents say to Liam Neeson’s admission??
— Kelechi (@kelechnekoff) February 5, 2019
Tariq Nasheed also made a stark comparison.
If a Black actor said he wanted to get revenge on random white people because of the injustices done by people who believe in white supremacy, he would be labeled a Black Identity Extremists and he would be placed on every FBI watch list. He would not be praised like Liam Neeson
— Tariq Nasheed 🇺🇸 (@tariqnasheed) February 5, 2019
It was a viewpoint echoed elsewhere.
How people are responding to this. Imagine if an A List Black actor said the same thing about YT people. It would be splattered all over the airwaves. Since he said it.. crickets.. Sileeeeence.. Like Martin would say.. Sileeeeence .. pic.twitter.com/b97lRXZk9d
— Famous14u (@famous14u) February 5, 2019
Imagine, just imagine Idris Elba or Forester Whitaker had said they’d spent a week looking to commit an indiscriminate hate crime against a white person.
I don’t think everyone would be so quick to forgive.
Siri, show me white privilege.https://t.co/fSgem2y04x
— Hannah Al-Othman (@HannahAlOthman) February 4, 2019
The Independent's Music correspondent Roisin O'Connor also noted the Irishman had not apologised for his statements.
Frustrating so many people are interpreting Liam Neeson's comments as an 'apology'. He has not apologised. He said he was 'shocked' at the rage he felt. He refuses to admit that the motivation behind his actions was racism, and not just a desire to avenge his friend.
— Roisin O'Connor (@Roisin_OConnor) February 5, 2019
That criticism was echoed by others on Twitter.
I keep seeing men saying "Wanting to avenge sexual violence against someone you care about is common. I've felt it", without acknowledging that is 100% not what Liam Neeson was talking about. It is not "revenge" to kill an innocent person of the same race who did something bad.
— Audra Williams (@audrawilliams) February 5, 2019
Model and LGBT+ activist Munroe Bergdorf pondered the question: If what Liam Neeson said isn’t racist, then what is?
Liam Neeson says "I'm not racist" after stating in an interview.
"I walked the streets with a cosh, hoping I’d be approached by a “black bastard” so that I could kill him".
At this point I'm dying to know just what DOES constitute as racism in the minds of white racists.
— ＭＵＮＲＯＥ 🌹🌹 (@MunroeBergdorf) February 5, 2019
The media's handling of the situation also came in for criticism.
What the Liam Neeson interview has shown is that phone-in radio and daytime TV show hosts will jump on any excuse to ‘debate’ whether there are circumstances in which it’s justified to commit a racist murder.
And that’s how social progress moves backwards.
— Ash Sarkar (@AyoCaesar) February 5, 2019
Black/Asian people: you know society is quite racist
Liam Neeson: let me tell you about this one time
Media: RACISM! WHO KNEW ABOUT THIS??
— Anita Singh (@anitathetweeter) February 5, 2019
And the fact Neeson repeated the anecdote.
Liam Neeson: I'm not racist, and I'll prove this by now repeating word for word my racist anecdote https://t.co/jhddn2wcAN
— Hadley Freeman (@HadleyFreeman) February 5, 2019
Neeson has received some support online though with many echoing the thoughts of John Barnes.
Football legend @officialbarnesy says he thinks actor Liam Neeson "deserves a medal" for his honesty about once having violent thoughts about killing a black person.
Latest on the fallout from the actor's comments here: https://t.co/8Fj7hBJVdU pic.twitter.com/iM111RXL6G
— Sky News (@SkyNews) February 6, 2019
— Jeremy Vine (@theJeremyVine) February 5, 2019
However, many saw the story and the media's handling of Neeson as another example of "white privilege".
If you needed an example of white privilege, this Liam Neeson story is it in 4K, they will spin it and commend his courage and honesty, Shame on all these black people even ‘trying to understand where he’s coming from’ disgrace.
— JustVic (@_VSimmons) February 5, 2019
I see many white folks calling for public clemency of Liam Neeson because he was honest and admitted he was wrong. I want to point out that he didn't say WHY he was wrong. There was no explicit ownership of racism, white supremacy, white privilege, etc. -- pretty damn important.
— Charlotte Clymer🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) February 4, 2019