Former England footballer John Barnes has said Liam Neeson deserves a medal for his honesty after the actor revealed he once held violent thoughts about killing a black person in revenge after someone close to him was raped.
The Hollywood star sparked controversy after he said he had walked the streets armed with a cosh, hoping he would be approached by “a black bastard” so that he could kill him.
Barnes, who suffered racist abuse during his football career, has praised Neeson for telling the truth and said his feelings were the result of a negative portrayal of black people in the media.
He told Sky News: “I believe that Liam Neeson deserves a medal and I’ll tell you why.
“I’ve listened to the whole transcript, Liam Neeson was talking about his film, revenge, and he’s talking about how revenge doesn’t do anyone any good.
“He mentions that growing up in Northern Ireland, he understands how destructive that can be.
“He went on to tell a story about a situation where a friend of his had been raped.
“Now if you listen to everything he’s talking about, he’s talking about in the moment and you can’t blame Liam Neeson for thinking what he feels, and this is a while ago, because this is what society has shown him that black people do, Muslims do.
“This is what society has wrongly shown him, this is what the media has wrongly portrayed to him.
“So in that moment, for a week he was going around looking to kill a black person or a ‘black (bastard)’ and he did that in quotation marks.
“Now what he actually went on to say is he is ashamed and horrified by the way he felt.
“He’s not ashamed and horrified in wanting to commit the act of revenge, he’s ashamed and horrified because that is what he felt about all black people.
“After a week he realised he was wrong, that is what he said, ‘I’m ashamed and horrified of the way I felt’.
“Now depending on how you want to spin this story, it’s now about he was going to kill a black person.”
When the interviewer said he did not want to spin the story, Barnes said: “It’s been spun, it’s been spun if you want to think about what he’s actually saying, the context.
“Which is why he said to the lady in his voice, ‘I’ve got a particular set of skills if you don’t report this in the way that it’s meant’ and he threatened to kill the woman.
“What he’s actually saying is he’s horrified and ashamed of the way he felt, he went on to say that.
“That is exactly what he went on to say, which meant he was ashamed of the way he felt, but you cannot blame him for thinking that.”
Barnes said that coverage of Muslim grooming gangs and Jamaican Yardie gangs in the press has led to others seeing “Muslims and Jamaicans in a negative light, and he’s admitting this is the way he viewed it”.
He added: “As much as people are now jumping on this bandwagon of how terrible this is, what he’s done is he’s come out and he’s told the truth.”