Oscar-nominated actor Liam Neeson is under fire for revealing he wanted to "kill" a black man when he was younger after one of his friends said she was raped, and the backlash has raised questions as to whether or not his career is in jeopardy.
During a now-infamous interview with The Independent, Neeson described waiting outside of pubs with a "cosh" hoping a "black bastard" would spark an altercation.
"I’m ashamed to say that – and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some [in air quotes] 'black bastard' would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could… kill him,” Neeson said. “It’s awful. But I did learn a lesson from it.”
The comments sparked immediate outrage, with many critics calling Neeson racist. “Good Morning Britain” host Piers Morgan called the comments “Ku Klux Klan stuff” on Tuesday and pondered aloud if the actor could recover from the hateful comments.
"The reaction on Twitter was very extreme last night," Morgan noted. "People were saying it's a career-ending interview."
“There seems to be no self-awareness in Neeson of just how offensive what he's saying is,” Morgan said. “If I was a black man, I would just find that unspeakable. Just the purest personification of racism, right there.”
The Independent’s Clemence Michallon, who conducted the interview, revealed to Morgan that Neeson even joked that he would find the reporter if she wasn’t careful telling his story by quoting one of his iconic movie lines.
“It doesn’t really seem that humorous, it feels like a threat. A veiled threat couched as a joke to put you on notice,” Morgan told Michallon.
Public Relations guru and 5W PR founder Ronn Torossian, who has over two decades of experience dealing with crisis management in the entertainment industry, was shocked upon hearing Neeson’s news-making story.
“For me, one of the real surprises is, this is a guy who is 60-something years old and he’s been doing media for the better part of his adult life. What was he thinking? When you talk about the legacy of Liam Neeson, I think these comments will certainly be a part of that legacy and I think he really said something very stupid,” Torossian told Fox News.
“This is not the type of thing that you say publically. I mean, it isn’t the type of thing you should do, but if you do it, you certainly don’t go around and talk about it. It’s just stupid,” Torossian said.
While Torossian thinks that Neeson said something “terrible,” he doesn’t feel it will end his career because he didn’t run and hide from the controversy. He explained that Neeson probably hasn’t made any new fans but Tuesday morning appearances on morning shows, including "Good Morning America" and "Live with Kelly and Ryan,” helped the “Taken” star avoid a scarlet letter on his career.
“In crisis 101 one of the cardinal things that exists is to own up to your mistakes, and to not wait. I thought his media blitz was done very well. The fact that he didn’t wait was very smart."
Neeson told “GMA” co-host Robin Roberts that he is “not a racist,” and explained that he was brought up in Northern Ireland during a tumultuous time.
"I was trying to show honor and stand up for my dear friend in this horrible medieval fashion ... Thankfully no violence occurred ever,” Neeson added.
“In crisis 101 one of the cardinal things that exists is to own up to your mistakes, and to not wait. I thought his media blitz was done very well. The fact that he didn’t wait was very smart,” Torossian said. “Unfortunately for him, this interview came out on a Monday rather than Friday, so this story is going to keep rolling. ‘I’m looking for a black person to kill,’ now that’s a great headline… that’s pretty bad.”
Hours after his "GMA" appearance, organizers of the New York City premeire of "Cold Pursuit" announced the event was cancelled shortly before it was slated to start.
In addition to Neeson quickly hitting the apology tour, Torossian thinks that the veteran actor could skirt further controversy because he’s been largely scandal-free for most of his career.
“I think this was Liam Neeson’s first offense and he’s 60-something years old, I think the rules are different when you’re 60-something years old and it’s your first offense,” Torossian said. “I think that Neeson walks away from this. It’s not the end of his career.”
Not everyone agrees with Torossian and a quick search of Neeson on social media reveals that many are still furious despite the damage control tour.
“You are no hero for your admission. You are a representative of racial terror,” New York Times columnist Charles Blow tweeted. “Could Will Smith confess to stalking the streets of Los Angeles for a whole week searching for random white people to kill and get a pass? Exactly.”
"The next time someone asks me why I have a chip on my shoulder, I can say, with all sincerity: ‘Because there may well be an Oscar-nominated actor out there who wants to kill me, so I have to be alert at all times,’” author and journalist Gary Younge wrote.
It is unclear if Neeson’s remarks will impact the release of “Cold Pursuit,” which hits theaters on Friday. Neeson has two other films scheduled to be released this year, including “Men in Black: International.”
A rep for Neeson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Fox News’ Jessica Sager and Sasha Savitsky contributed to this report.