“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,” Neeson said in a statement obtained by multiple news outlets.
Neeson made the shocking remarks in an interview with The Independent published in February. In the interview, the actor talked about an incident from nearly 40 years ago when he learned a friend of his had been raped.
The actor said that his “immediate reaction” was to ask “what color” the person was and upon learning the rapist was black, he began roaming the streets thinking about fighting and killing a black man:
“I went up and down areas with a cosh, hoping I’d be approached by somebody – I’m ashamed to say that – and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some [Neeson gestures air quotes with his fingers] ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could,” another pause, “kill him.”
Neeson told the Independent what he did was “awful,” adding that he “did learn a lesson from it, when I eventually thought, ‘What the fuck are you doing,’ you know?”
The interview sparked widespread backlash, with Neeson defending himself as “not a racist” on “Good Morning America.” Not long after, the New York premiere of his latest movie, “Cold Pursuit,” was canceled just hours before it was scheduled to start.
In his new apology, Neeson said the incident he described does not reflect who he is today and that he “missed the point” when it came to how his comments could be harmful.
“The horror of what happened to my friend ignited irrational thoughts that do not represent the person I am,” the statement read. “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.”
He added that he “failed to realize” 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,” the statement continued. “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.”