Liam Neeson insisted he's not racist Tuesday, a day after an interview revealed he once sought to kill a black man to avenge the rape of a friend.
"I'm not racist," he said on "Good Morning America." "This was nearly 40 years ago."
The actor had revealed in an interview published by The Independent on Monday that he looked for a black man to kill after his friend was attacked. He made the admission while promoting his new movie, "Cold Pursuit," about a father who seeks revenge after his son is killed.
"I asked, did she know who it was? 'No.' What color were they? She said it was a black person," he said.
He described going out with a club, looking for vengeance.
"I went up and down areas ... hoping I'd be approached by somebody. I'm ashamed to say that, and I did it for maybe a week — hoping some [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's co-star Tom Bateman, who was also present for the interview, reportedly reacted with astonishment.
The New York Times described Neeson's anger as a "racist revenge fantasy."
In Tuesday's interview on "Good Morning America," Neeson attempted to clarify his remarks. He insisted he would have felt the same had his friend been raped by "an Irish, or a Scot, or a Brit, or a Lithuanian."
"I was trying to ... stand up for my dear friend in this terrible medieval fashion," he said.
When asked if he would have attacked someone, Neeson immediately said, "Yes."
"That was my feeling, that I did want to lash out, yes, because my friend was brutally raped and I thought I was defending her honor," he said.
"I'm a fairly intelligent guy, that's why it kind of shocked me when I came down to Earth after having these horrible feelings. Luckily no violence occurred – ever. Thanks be to God."
Less than an hour later, the star also spoke about the controversy on "Live With Kelly and Ryan."
"I just needed to be honest," he said.
While some of the audience members voiced their support, Sonny Hostin on "The View" was less forgiving.
"What I can't understand is how you would go out and seek a random person of the same race to harm," she said. "Because that, for me, feels like a modern-day lynching. That's what happened to black men in this country by white men somehow trying to be righteous about a white woman's virtue. And that really felt ... like my father could be walking down the street and someone would just attack him."
In an online poll, Inside Edition asked its audience if Neeson should be forgiven for his remarks. Of the more than 3,000 people who responded, 78 percent said yes, he should be forgiven, while 22 percent said no.