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Liam Neeson offers new apology for that distressing rape revenge story

Photo: Nicholas Hunt (Getty Images)

It’s been nearly two months since Liam Neeson publicly wandered into a minefield of a story about wanting to kill a “black bastard” after a friend of his told him she was assaulted by “a black person.” He was promoting the revenge film Cold Pursuit at the time, and used the story, the events of which occurred 40 years ago, as a means of explaining of how he accessed his character.

“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,” he told The Independent, “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.”

He swiftly issued an apology at the time, and has now, via Deadline, shared some new thoughts about the incident, ones that acknowledge his understanding of why many people were hurt and offended by his remarks. “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 says. “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.”

Read it in full 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.

In the days following the incident, Neeson apologized while attempting to provide some context. “I grew up in a society where there was a lot of bigotry in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics and I’m so sick of it,” he said at the time. It’s not so different in America, he contended, saying, “We all pretend we’re all politically correct. In this country, sometimes you just scratch the surface and you discover this racism, this bigotry, and it’s there.”

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Randall Colburn

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.