With Liam Neeson as Tuesday’s guest, Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts dedicated her entire interview to addressing the racist revenge story the actor admitted to in a recent interview.
“I’m not racist,” Neeson said during the eight-minute discussion on ABC. “This was nearly 40 years ago.”
During the press tour for his new film Cold Pursuit, Neeson told U.K. publication The Independent that he once went out in Ireland to fulfill a revenge fantasy in the hopes of killing a black man after an unidentified person close to Neeson was raped by someone she says was black.
“I remembered an incident nearly 40 years ago where a very dear friend of mine was brutally raped and I was out of the country,” Neeson recounted again to Roberts. “And when I came back, she told me about this. She handled the situation with herself and the rapist incredibly bravely, I have to say that, but I had never felt this feeling before, which was a primal urge to lash out. I asked her, did you know the person? … No. His race? She said he was a black man.”
The actor said he then trolled “black areas in the city looking to be set upon” so he could “unleash physical violence.”
“I did it for, I’d say, maybe four or five times until I caught myself and it really shocked me, this primal urge I had,” he said. “It shocked me and it hurt me.”
When initially published by The Independent, the story sparked outrage across the web. Neeson said he did “seek help” by going to his priest for confession and speaking with “two very very good friends.” He also noted how he grew up “in the north of Ireland and [was] brought up in ‘The Troubles,'” the violent conflict between Irish nationalists, who were mostly Catholic and wanted the country to be separated from the U.K., and Irish unionists, who were mostly Protestant and wanted Ireland to remain.
Roberts confronted Neeson about how he asked his friend about the color of her attacker and not his size, weight, and other features. Neeson said he did ask about those questions, though they didn’t come up when he was initially telling the story. He further claimed he would’ve done the equivalent if his friend pointed to an Irishman as her attacker.
“I was trying to show honor, to stand up for my dear friend in this terrible, medieval fashion,” he said. “I’m a fairly intelligent guy so that’s why it shocked me when I finally came down to earth.”
When asked what “the teachable moment” should be in this situation, Neeson hoped for others “to talk about these things,” but then he turned the question back on Roberts. “You tell me what the teachable moment is,” he said.
“The one point I want to make out is that this wasn’t discovered by somebody. You admitted this,” she said. “This wasn’t a gotcha [moment]. So I will give you credit there, but also having to acknowledge the hurt, even though it happened decades ago, the hurt of an innocent black man, knowing he could’ve been killed for something that he did not do because of the color of his skin.”
She added, “You have to also understand the pain of the a black person hearing what you said.”
Watch their full interview in the video above.