Fans are both angered and confused by comments Liam Neeson has made about race in a new interview.
While promoting his upcoming thriller, Cold Pursuit, in which he plays a man seeking revenge against drug dealers he thinks killed his son, the Irish actor revealed to a reporter at a press junket that he once sought revenge himself. He then detailed how, after a woman he knew was raped, he asked her the race of the alleged perpetrator, and then, for a week, walked the streets, armed with a weapon, in hopes that he could “kill” a “black bastard” in retaliation.
Neeson, 66, made the admission while talking about how his character turns to anger and said there’s “something primal” about that reaction when “you’ve … had a member of your family hurt under criminal conditions,” he told U.K. outlet the Independent. He went on to say that years back, he returned from overseas and learned of the woman’s sexual assault. And while the person, who he didn’t identify, handled the situation in an “extraordinary way,” his reaction was, “I asked, did she know who it was? No. What color were they? She said it was a black person.”
Three weeks ago, I sat with Liam Neeson for a press junket. He shared a startling story with me, for the first time. This is the story of that story. https://t.co/kvKfQdTdAK
— Clémence Michallon (@Clemence_Mcl) February 4, 2019
So Neeson went on to say he “went up and down areas with a cosh [a thick, heavy stick used as a weapon] hoping I’d be approached by somebody — I’m ashamed to say that — and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some [gestures air quotes] ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could,” he paused, “kill him.” He went on to admit, “It was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that. And I’ve never admitted that, and I’m saying it to a journalist. God forbid.”
His co-star in the film, Tom Bateman, was with him during the interview and reacted by saying, “Holy s***,” to which Neeson replied, “It’s awful. But I did learn a lesson from it, when I eventually thought, ‘What the f*** are you doing,’ you know?”
Neeson’s comments were immediately called out as racist on Twitter.
So I guess Liam Neeson just publicly admitted he’s racist, huh pic.twitter.com/r33F7Bzdzr
— trey taylor (@treytylor) February 4, 2019
Many talked about his racist reaction to the situation — asking for just the alleged perpetrator’s skin color.
“But my immediate reaction was I asked, did she know who it was? No. What colour were they? She said it was a black person."
Not how old were they? How tall were they? You just asked what colour were they? I don't care how sorry you are, Liam Neeson, that is disgusting. https://t.co/sCDVTBCBIx
— Hannah Al-Othman (@HannahAlOthman) February 4, 2019
So Liam Neeson’s response to a loved one being raped was to:
1. Ask the race of the assailant, which tells us his racism was deep rooted before the assault.
2. Roam through (presumably) black neighborhoods in hopes of provoking a black person so that he could murder them. pic.twitter.com/5C4PBWVSWY
— rocket juju (@juliacraven) February 4, 2019
The Liam Neeson thing is nasty because he didn't go out looking for his loved one's rapist who was a specific man who happened to be black. He went out every night for a week WITH A WEAPON looking to kill literally ANY black man. Is that sinking in yet? That's RACIST & STUPID
— Sincerely K 🎀 (@blaqunicorn_) February 4, 2019
Many felt there was no lesson to be learned from what he said.
When #LiamNeeson heard that his friend's rapist was black, he went looking for a black man to "kill". ANY black man. And, after he sort of came to his senses and thought "what am I doing?"… The lesson he learned is that "revenge is futile"? THAT'S the take away??
— Kelly AuCoin (@KellyAuCoin77) February 4, 2019
So…Liam Neeson really decided to just blow up his career by admitting he once wanted (and actually walked around w/ a crowbar!) to murder a Black man, any Black man.
And he did it while promoting another one of his old white man gets revenge movies.
— Britni Danielle (@BritniDWrites) February 4, 2019
For many, this story is another example of the mistreatment of the black community.
Liam Neeson is definitely a reminder that there are folks who walk around hoping to provoke Black people so they can kill us.
A lot of them are in law enforcement and politics.
— George M Johnson (@IamGMJohnson) February 4, 2019
That Liam Neeson interview is just so saddening (and yes, still racist). It reinforces the idea that people of colour, and especially black men, are collectively responsible for the misdeeds of one. And that when a woman is sexually violated, it's a man who is left truly wounded.
— Ash Sarkar (@AyoCaesar) February 4, 2019
One commenter referenced the story of Emmett Till. He was a 14-year-old African-American boy who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after being accused of offending a white woman in her family’s grocery store.
Liam Neeson should really read about Emmett Till.
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) February 4, 2019
There was also a lot of confusion as to why Neeson would tell this story in the first place.
I'm so curious about Liam Neeson's decision to say that instead of, you know, not saying that
— new year, same shrill (@theshrillest) February 4, 2019
liam neeson: i considered carrying out a racist murder years ago
— leon (@leyawn) February 4, 2019
Liam Neeson: I was racist for two weeks but I came out stronger x
— bolu babalola (@BeeBabs) February 4, 2019
Liam Neeson 1) says he wanted to kill a random black man over an unrelated crime 2) thought this was an anecdote he could share to promote his movie https://t.co/lVG2N2IbpN
— ishmael n. daro (@iD4RO) February 4, 2019
I know this isn't really the point but 5 seconds into that Liam Neeson anecdote and, as a publicist, I'm hitting the fire alarm. Sprinklers on, everyone evacuates.
— Jake Garriock (@JWGarriock) February 4, 2019
Either way, there are many calls for his cancellation.
Yup so Liam Neeson is definitely cancelled.
— King K. (@Unkle_K) February 4, 2019
Liam Neeson is 100% cancelled pic.twitter.com/sRNxYX9xdf
— CLARK KENT (@ComeSeeGuy) February 4, 2019
Liam Neeson is cancelled again.
— My autobiography 21st Feb! (@DaftLimmy) February 4, 2019
A rep for Neeson has not yet responded to our request for comment. We will update this story if he does.
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