Photo from Wikimedia Commons
What was the Accusation?
In February of 2019, actress Michelle Rodriguez (Fast and the Furious, Lost) defended her co-star, Liam Neeson (Widows), who had recently been under fire for comments he made to a reporter while promoting his most recent film Cold Pursuit. In the interview, Neeson shared a story from forty years earlier when a close friend of his was raped. He recounted that he asked his friend what race her attacker was and she responded that he was a black man. Neeson then offered the following story: “Then after that I went out deliberately into black areas of the city looking to be set upon so I could unleash physical violence and I did it maybe four or five times until I caught myself on and it really shocked me, this primal urge I had…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’ (Neeson provides air quotes with his fingers) would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could kill him.” Although Neeson claimed he wasn’t a racist and felt ashamed that he had this instinct for racial vengeance, he faced intense scrutiny because he not only fantasized about killing a black man, he took his emotions a step further by taking his frustrations to the streets looking for a violent confrontation. Rodriguez responded publicly to accusations levied against Neeson by saying: “It’s all f—-ing bulls—. Dude, have you watched Widows? His tongue was so far down Viola Davis’s throat. You can’t call him a racist ever. Racists don’t make out with the race that they hate, especially in the way he does with his tongue so deep down her throat. I don’t care how good of an actor you are. It’s all bullshit. Ignore it. He’s not a racist. He’s a loving man. It’s all lies.” She would later apologize for this statement after someone educated her about a long history in America of hate crimes (including sexual assault) against people of other races, particularly racist slaveholders who would have their way with black servants. In response to her own criticism for defending Neeson, she would apologize for her insensitive statement, blame the “pressure-filled situation” for her poor choice of words, and promise to grow from the experience.
Key Apologia Strategies:
mortification, defeasibility, corrective action
Michelle Rodriguez Instagram Post:
To my friends and colleagues and my fans and community: I want to deeply apologize for my recent choice of words, and poor use of example, Rodriguez wrote in a Saturday Instagram post. In a pressure-filled situation, I defended a friend in the wrong way. I now realize how insensitive it was, and I had no intention of invoking such a terrible historical comparison. I have learned from this, and will grow from it. One love, MRod.
Clarke, S. (2019, February 4). Liam neeson says he wanted to kill ‘some black bastard’ after hearing about friend’s rape. Variety. Retrieved from: https://variety.com/2019/film/news/liam-neeson-black-bastard-rape-1203127762/
Fitzpatrick, K. (2019, February 10). Michelle Rodriguez apologizes for her Liam Neeson defense. Vanity Fair. Retrieved from: https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2019/02/michelle-rodriguez-liam-neeson-apology
Matthews, D. (2019, February 10). Michelle Rodriguez walks back defense of Liam Neeson with social media apology. NY Daily News. Retrieved from: https://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/ny-news-michelle-rodriguez-apology-liam-neeson-racist-remark-20190210-story.html
Shepherd, J. (2019, February 5). Liam Neeson interview: Actor insists ‘I’m not a racist’ after admitting he wanted to kill a black man. Independent (U.K.). Retrieved from: https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/liam-neeson-interview-gma-apology-racism-black-man-cosh-attack-good-morning-america-a8763826.html