"There's a difference between... patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right? Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn't be conflated, right," he said at the time. "We're so energized to kind of get retribution, I think."
"All of that behavior needs to be confronted, but there is a continuum and on this end of the continuum where you have rape and child molestation or whatever, you know, that's prison. Right? And that's what needs to happen... That's criminal behavior, and it needs to be dealt with that way," he added. "The other stuff is just kind of shameful and gross. I just think that we have to kind of start delineating between what these behaviors are."
Now, nearly four years later, Damon, 50, opened up about the controversy with GQ.
"I mean, we all come into the world and we're a f------ hot mess, do you know what I mean?" he said. "And we make mistakes. And even in doing our best we make terrible mistakes."
The Oscar winner called the reaction "painful," adding that, "It's hard to take punches for things…the person that they were saying, 'He's tone-deaf, and he's…' you know, I don't like that guy either. So it's hard to hear those things about yourself."
Damon noted that a friend advised him to hold off on responding at the time.
"She said, 'Don't respond. You'd be inclined to say, 'But I'm a good person.…' Don't do that. Just be quiet for at least a month and just listen. Listen to the objections to what you said. Try to understand why you upset people,'" he recalled. "And that's what I did. My friend's advice was great in the sense of not getting in a defensive crouch -- because that was my inclination, and you can't hear anything in a defensive crouch -- and as painful as it is, the only way forward is to really try to understand what you've done and really reflect on it."
Although the "Ocean's 11" star said the social media backlash, which he described as "nonsense," affected him, he admitted that the critical articles that were written about him were more difficult to take.
"95 percent of the stuff was entirely unhelpful, it was just Twitter-bashing stuff, which did put me in a defensive crouch, because you just go, 'That's nonsense,'" he told GQ.
He continued, "There were articles written about things that I said, about centering a man in a sexual assault situation. And I go, 'Wow, I did do that. I thought of it entirely from his perspective.' Like, that's where my head went. And, 'I didn't think about these women'… Because I'm trying to relate to the situation, and I relate to the person who has more in common with me. But in so doing, I'm doing damage not only to the people in that scenario but to anybody who's ever been in that scenario and who feels like, 'Oh, here I go again, getting overlooked.'"
The "Stillwater" actor noted that the situation ultimately shifted his perspective. "It changed the way that I look at some of these things," he said. "It makes me hopefully more aware."
Meanwhile, later in his interview with GQ, Damon was asked if he ever felt like he was "misunderstood." In response, the "Jason Bourne" star brought up his 2017 comments again.
"I felt like I was being represented as something that I didn't feel in my heart," he explained. "And the media, it's so powerful -- like, that fire hose of attention is overwhelming, no matter what. Even when it's good, it's really overwhelming. Some people love it, and you can see that they're looking for it and they need it, constantly trying to get more of it. I'm not passing any judgment on that, I'm just not that way. Some people love a bright light on them. I've never been that person. I always really wanted to work. I really wanted to work. But not the other part."
“A lot of those women are my dear friends and I love them and respect them and support what they’re doing and want to be a part of that change ... But I should get in the back seat and close my mouth for a while.”
Back in January 2018, following the backlash in the wake of his controversial comments at the time, Damon issued an apology during an appearance on the "TODAY" show.
"I really wish I'd listened a lot more before I weighed in on this," he said at the time while promoting a Water.org campaign. "I don't want to further anybody's pain with anything that I do or say. So for that I am really sorry."