"I asked, did she know who it was? No," Neeson told The Independent. "What color were they? She said it was a black person."
He went on to say he "went up and down areas with a cosh" — British slang for a heavy stick or bar — "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.”
He retold this story to GMA's Robin Roberts, referring to the Independent's Clémence Michallon as a "lady journalist," and Roberts pointed out one of the main criticisms of the anecdote: Neeson's first question upon hearing his friend's allegations was about the assailant's race, not about his height or other identifying features.
"I asked all those questions, too. I did. But I did ask about race," he said, later adding, "If she'd have said Irish, or a Scott, or a Brit, or a Lithuanian...I know it would have had the same effect. I was trying to stand up for my dear friend in this terrible, medieval fashion. 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."
Neeson said that once the urge passed, he did "seek help."
"I went to a priest, I bared my confession," he said. "Believe it or not, power walking helped me. Two hours every day, to get rid of this. I’m not racist. This was nearly 40 years ago."
Neeson confirmed that he would have attacked a Black man had he been approached, regardless of the man's innocence.
"We all pretend we're politically correct...racism, bigotry, it's there," he told Roberts.
Watch the full interview below.