Journalist opens up about ‘shocking’ Liam Neeson interview that's sparked racism row
Clémence Michallon, Culture writer for The Independent in the US, has told Good Morning Britain she was 'shocked' by an anecdote Liam Neeson told her during an interview about his upcoming film ‘Cold Pursuit’.
Ms Michallon and The Independent released a recorded interview of Mr Neeson, in which he described, in graphic detail, his desire to kill a black man to get revenge for the rape of a friend.
He is heard in the recording to admit to carrying a weapon for a week, hoping any black person would provoke him into killing them.
"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 [uses air quotes with fingers] 'black b**tard' would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could kill him,” he told Ms Michallon in the recording.
On Good Morning Britain, Ms Michallon recounted her reaction to his comments.
“The gravity of what he was saying immediately struck me. It was a matter of playing that tape over and over again to myself and going back to his team, trying to get more comments, which they’ve declined that opportunity,” she said on the programme.
Ms Michallon went on to explain what happened after the interview, to which some perceived to be a joking threat.
“He asked me if I was going to use that story, if I would be very careful,” she explained to Good Morning Britain.
“Then he sort of switched to his actor voice, and there’s a famous phone scene in Taken, where his character is talking to the people who have kidnapped his daughter, and he said: ‘I have a very specific set of skills and I will find you.'
“It was, in his mind, clearly a joke.
“Whether or not that was appropriate remains to be determined. But he said: 'I will find you'. He said that to me in the same voice."
While Ms Michallon believes his comments were inappropriate, she says Neeson seemed remorseful for his 'horrible' thought process and the way he handled the situation. He told her he had 'learned a lesson' from it.
She said: “that the comments are shocking is an absolute given. No one is disputing that. He expressed some awareness of that.
“Liam Neeson himself was stunned by his own thought process that it’s awful.
That’s why we released the audio: to be as transparent as possible with this story, so people could hear the full context of it.”
Since then, Mr Neeson has appeared on Good Morning America to defend his comments and to stress he is not a racist.
He admitted on the programme: "I went out deliberately into black areas in this city looking to be set upon so I could unleash physical violence and I did it maybe four or five times until I caught myself on and it really shocked me, this primal urge I had."
He said he became aware of how toxic his mindset had become, stating: "It hurt me. I did seek help. I went to my priest and had two very good friends I spoke to.
"I’m a fairly intelligent guy and that’s why it shocked me.
When asked if he would have had the same reaction to someone of a different race, he replied: "If she’d have said a Brit, a Scot, a Lithuanian I would have reacted the same. I was trying to show honour and stand up for my friend in this medieval fashion."