Liam Neeson says he's "not racist" after disturbing interview

By Justin Carissimo

/ CBS News

Liam Neeson says he considered racist attack

Actor Liam Neeson has responded to the backlash over a racist confession he said he was ashamed to make. Neeson, 66, joined ABC's "Good Morning America" to further explain his interview with the U.K.'s Independent. He told the publication he once contemplated a revenge attack after someone close to him was raped by a black man.

"For some nights I deliberately went into black areas in the city looking to be set upon so that I could unleash physical violence. I did it for maybe four or five times until I caught myself on. It really shocked me — this primal urge I had. It shocked me and it hurt me," he said on "GMA."

"I did seek help. I went to a priest," he added. "I had two really good friends that I talked to, and believe it or not, power walking. Two hours every day… to get rid of this. I'm not racist."

Liam Neeson on Oct. 4, 2018 in New York City. Jared Siskin/Getty for Netflix

Neeson first spoke about the incident in an interview with The Independent's Clémence Michallon about three weeks ago, ahead of his upcoming film "Cold Pursuit," as he was explaining how his latest character turns to anger.

Neeson said that after learning of the assault and being told the alleged attacker was black, he "went up and down areas with a cosh" (a heavy stick or truncheon) hoping a black person "would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could kill him."

"It was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that," he added. "And I've never admitted that, and I'm saying it to a journalist. God forbid."

The reaction on social media was overwhelmingly critical. Actor Terry Crews tweeted: "Hmmmm. Reminds me of a time I got provoked by a rich white guy I didn't know. Hoping I would do something. Thank God I never took the bait."

Adriana Diaz contributed to this report.

First published on February 5, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Justin Carissimo

Justin is a breaking news editor at CBS News. Reach him at [email protected]

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