Rather than burying a story from the past that would expose his racist beliefs, Liam Neeson just ended up canceling himself. During the promotion of his upcoming film Cold Pursuit, Neeson gave an interview to The Independent in which he exposed himself as not only racist but also someone who apparently feels that admitting he once had racist thoughts absolves him of being called racist anymore.
During the interview, which began as a typical Q and A regarding his film, which is about revenge, Neeson told an anecdote about the time a friend confided in him that she had been raped. “I asked, did she know who it was? No. What colour were they? She said it was a black person,” the actor recounted to the reporter. “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 ‘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 said.
Neeson then attempted to demonstrate the “lesson” he learned from walking around for weeks with a rageful intention to kill a black man. “It was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that. And I’ve never admitted that, and I’m saying it to a journalist. God forbid,” Neeson said. “It’s awful, but I did learn a lesson from it, when I eventually thought, ‘What the fuck are you doing,’ you know?” he continued. According to the reporter conducting the interview, this shocked Neeson’s costar Tom Bateman, who could only utter, “Holy shit.”
This admission from Neeson is more than just an unscripted answer in an interview that turned out to be a PR disaster for the actor. It is also extremely bad timing, especially considering the news broke less than a week after Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam, admitted to appearing in a photo wearing blackface and the Empire actor Jussie Smollett was attacked in Chicago in an alleged hate crime that targeted the actor for being black and gay. Neeson’s admission that he had once held the desire to carry out a racist attack against a member of a group that is disproportionately targeted in hate crimes and hypersexualized also prompted an appropriately upset response on social media from actors and comedians, like Terry Crews.
The unquestionable racism of Neeson’s remarks—that any random black man’s life is worth taking in the name of revenge—cannot be any clearer, and his admission of it does not make it any less toxic.