Liam Neeson has responded to the backlash that erupted when he said he walked the streets with a club hoping to kill a random black man after a close friend told him she was brutally raped.
“I’m not racist,” Neeson, 66, said Tuesday during an appearance on Good Morning America. “This was nearly 40 years ago.”
In an interview with U.K. paper The Independent while promoting his new movie Cold Pursuit, Neeson previously said, “I went up and down areas with a cosh (a club)… 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.”
A day after the story was published, the Irish actor told GMA host Robin Roberts he felt a “primal urge to lash out” after learning his friend’s attacker was black.
“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 maybe four or five times,” he told Roberts. “It shocked me and it hurt me.”
He said he later sought help to address his behavior.
“I went to a priest, I had my confession. I was reared Catholic,” he said, adding that exercise also helped. “Believe it or not, power walking, two hours every day to get rid of this.”
Asked how he would have reacted if his friend’s attacker had been white, the actor said, “If she had said an Irish, or a Scot or a Brit or a Lithuanian, I know I would have had the same effect.”
Roberts wondered if he would have really tried to kill an innocent black man. Neeson replied, “yes.”
Roberts then asked the actor if there was a “teachable moment” from his statements.
“To talk about these things. We all pretend that we’re politically correct,” he said before turning the tables on the GMA host to get her thoughts on what people could learn from his comments.
“The point I want to make out is that, this wasn’t discovered by somebody, you admitted this, this isn’t a gotcha, so I give you credit there,” she said. “But also having to acknowledge the hurt, even though it happened decades ago, the hurt of an innocent black man knowing that he could have been killed for something he did not do because of the color of his skin.”
Neeson replied: “Or they could have killed me too.”
You can watch the interview below.