Liam Neeson has issued a formal apology for his controversial comments in February, in which he admitted to a decades-old revenge fantasy. That fantasy involved the actor walking the streets of Ireland, hoping to find and kill a black person after an unidentified friend of his was raped by someone she claimed was black.
“The horror of what happened to my friend ignited irrational thoughts that do not represent the person I am,” Neeson said in a statement released Friday. “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 made the initial comments during the press tour for his film Cold Pursuit. In an interview with the U.K. publication The Independent, Neeson said, upon learning of the rape, he “asked, did she know who it was? No. What colour were they? She said it was a black person.” Afterward, the actor said he “went up and down areas…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.”
The comments sparked outrage online, and Neeson appeared on Good Morning America the next day to attempt to clarify them. In an eight-minute interview with Robin Roberts, Neeson emphasized that his feelings came from a “primal urge” and stated “I’m not racist,” adding that the incident occurred 40 years ago.
He also offered some greater context, noting he was “brought up in the Troubles,” a violent period in Northern Ireland.
Neeson stopped short of offering a formal apology, however, which he has now done. You can read his full statement below:
“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. 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. 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.”