Liam Neeson has described the wave of sexual misconduct allegations that have swept the entertainment industry as “a bit of a witch-hunt” and appeared to dismiss breast groping as “childhood stuff” in an interview on Irish television.
Speaking on The Late Late Show on RTE, the Hollywood A-lister said “there’s some people, famous people, being suddenly accused of touching some girl’s knee, or something, and suddenly they’re being dropped from their program, or something”.
The French actor Catherine Deneuve drew sharp criticism this week when she also used the term “witch-hunt” to describe the chain of events since allegations of serial sexual assault were made against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinsteinlast year.
Asked what he thought of the sweep of allegations in his industry, Neeson said: “It’s a bit of a witch-hunt.”
Neeson, one of Hollywood’s most bankable and respected stars, referred to the recent case of the writer and broadcaster Garrison Keillor to illustrate his point.
Keillor was fired by Minnesota Public Radio late last year over allegations of “inappropriate behavior with an individual who worked with him”.
Neither MPR nor Keillor’s accuser publicly disclosed the details of the allegations that led to his dismissal..
In The Late Late Show interview, Neeson echoed Keillor’s version of the events that led to the allegations against him, which framed them as a well-intentioned misunderstanding.
Keillor told a local newspaper following his dismissal: “I put my hand on a woman’s bare back. I meant to pat her back after she told me about her unhappiness and her shirt was open and my hand went up it about six inches. She recoiled. I apologized. I sent her an email of apology later and she replied that she had forgiven me … We continued to be friendly right up until her lawyer called.”
Asked how he felt about Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman, actors who have been accused of multiple counts of sexual misconduct, Neeson said he was “on the fence” about allegations against Hoffman, saying that what he had been accused of was “childhood stuff”.
Discussing the allegations against Hoffman, Neeson said, “when you’re doing a play and you’re with your family – other actors, technicians – you do silly things … and it becomes kind of superstitious, if you don’t do it every night you think it’s going to jinx the show”.
Neeson was quick to distance himself from Hoffman’s alleged behaviour, saying: “I’m not saying I’ve done similar things to what he’s done.”