People are condemning Liam Neeson's reaction to his friend's alleged rape as racist — but some are applauding him

Tara Ziemba/WireImageLiam Neeson has been on a press tour for his newest movie, ‘Cold Pursuit.’
  • After a close friend said she was raped by a black man 40 years ago, Liam Neeson told The Independent that he would carry a weapon hoping to be approached by a ‘black b——‘ so he could kill him.
  • When the interview was published on Monday, it quickly went viral.
  • Neeson’s comments attracted a flood of condemnation from all areas of the internet.
  • Some people, however, defended and praised the actor – including the former soccer player John Barnes, who said Neeson “deserves a medal” for his honesty.

Liam Neeson is facing a wave of backlash after his recent interview with The Independent went viral on Monday.

During a press junket for his newest film “Cold Pursuit” – in which Neeson plays a father seeking revenge after his son was killed by a drug gang – the actor described a revenge fantasy he once had after a close friend said she was raped by a black man 40 years ago.

“I went up and down areas with a cosh,” he continued, using a British term for a weapon that can bludgeon, “hoping I’d be approached by somebody. I’m ashamed to say that.”

“And I did it for maybe a week, hoping some ‘black b——‘ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know?” he said, using air quotes around the offensive term. “So that I could kill him.”

Though he appeared on “Good Morning America” on Tuesday to clarify that this “incident” occurred nearly 40 years ago and to insist he’s “not racist,” his comments had already been condemned on social media.


Read more:


Liam Neeson insists he’s not racist in the wake of his comments about wanting to kill black people for revenge: ‘I did seek help, I went to a priest’

People were appalled that Neeson would conflate the actions of one black person with the entire black community

Many of those critics pointed out that Neeson’s experience as evidence of a larger, systemic bias against black people.

“Liam Neeson is definitely a reminder that there are folks who walk around hoping to provoke Black people so they can kill us,” wrote journalist George M. Johnson.

Many argue that Neeson’s “hunt” was indicative of latent, existing racism, rather than some sort of “phase” triggered by emotional trauma – especially considering Neeson said that he specifically asked his friend about her rapist’s race.

Neeson did, however, have defenders

Some people praised his admission, including the former soccer player John Barnes, who said Neeson “deserves a medal” for being honest.

Journalist Jeremy Helligar argued that Neeson simply “lacked awareness” in the situation.

Still, Neeson’s defenders were roundly mocked. Many noted that both the urge and the ability to praise Neeson’s actions are symptoms of whiteness and privilege.

Others noted that Neeson feeling free to tell this story at all is emblematic of his own privilege.

“Liam Neeson being ready to take any Black life over what one person allegedly did just shows how meaningless and inconsequential black lives are to some,” wrote Frederick Joseph, founder of the non-profit We Have Stories. “Even him telling the story demonstrates a level of privilege and understating that there may not be repercussions.”

Journalist Gary Younge echoed this sentiment in a piece for The Guardian.

“When some white people look at us they see anything from a misplaced grievance to a cautionary tale,” Younge wrote. “What they do not see are human beings. We are still fair game.”

Neeson said on ‘GMA’ that he was ‘shocked’ by his own feelings

On “GMA,” Roberts asked Neeson what would have happened if the alleged rapist were white.

“If she’d had said [the man was] an Irish, or a Scot, or a Brit, or a Lithuanian, I know it would have had the same effect,” he said. “I was trying to show honour to my – stand up for my – dear friend, in this terrible, medieval fashion. And I’m a fairly intelligent guy, and that’s why it kind of shocked me when I came down to earth after having these horrible feelings. Luckily, no violence occurred. Ever. Thanks be to God.”

He did, however, say he feels certain that he would have committed an act of violence, had an innocent black person provoked him.

“We all pretend we’re all, kind of, you know, ‘politically correct,'” he said, telling Roberts that he hopes his story helps people “open up” and talk about these issues more.

“In this country – it’s the same in my own country, too – you sometimes just scratch the surface. And you discover this racism and bigotry, and it’s there,” he said.

If you are a victim of sexual assault, you can visit RAINN or call its hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to receive confidential support from a trained staff member.

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