"Over the last several weeks, I have reflected on and spoken to a variety of people who were hurt by my impulsive recounting of a brutal rape of a dear female friend nearly 40 years ago and my unacceptable thoughts and actions at that time in response to this crime," he said in the statement, according to USA Today. "The horror of what happened to my friend ignited irrational thoughts that do not represent the person I am."
He continued, "In trying to explain those feelings today, I missed the point and hurt many people at a time when language is so often weaponized and an entire community of innocent people are targeted in acts of rage. What I failed to realize is that this is not about justifying my anger all those years ago, it is also about the impact my words have today."
"I was wrong to do what I did," Neeson concluded. "I recognize that, although the comments I made do not reflect, in any way, my true feelings nor me, they were hurtful and divisive. I profoundly apologize."
It all began in February during the promo tour for Neeson's film "Cold Pursuit" when the "Taken" star recalled to the Independent that many years ago he sought confrontations with black men following the assault of a friend.
"She handled the situation of the rape in the most extraordinary way," he said. "But my immediate reaction was... did she know who it was? No. What color were they? She said it was a black person...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."
"It was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that," he added. "And I've never admitted that, and I'm saying it to a journalist. God forbid...It's awful, but I did learn a lesson from it, when I eventually thought, 'What the f--k are you doing?' you know?"
Following the backlash, Neeson attempted to clarify the controversial statements on "Good Morning America" and expressed that not only is he not a racist, but would have had the same reaction if the alleged attacker wasn't black.
According to Neeson, he originally brought up the incident at the junket when a journalist asked him how he tapped into the film's topic of revenge for his role in "Cold Pursuit."
"I remembered an incident nearly 40 years ago where a very dear friend of mine was brutally raped," he told host Robin Roberts. "I had never felt this feeling before, which was a primal urge to lash out."
"I'm not racist. I was brought up in the north of Ireland. The Troubles. The 1960s, 70s and early 80s," he continued. "There was a war going on in the north of Ireland. I had acquaintances who were involved in the Troubles. The bigotry. One Catholic would be killed; the next day one Protestant would be killed … I grew up surrounded by that, but I was never part of it."
"If she had said an Irish, Scot, or a Brit, or a Lithuanian -- I know I would have felt the same way," Neeson concluded. "I was trying to show honor and stand up for my dear friend in this terrible medieval fashion... It shocked me when I came down...Luckily, no violence occurred, thanks be to God."