Whoopi Goldberg has defended Liam Neeson amid a racism row caused after he told The Independent he once roamed the streets with a cosh, wanting to kill a “black bastard” after someone close to him was raped years ago.

The actor and co-presenter of US series The View waded in on the backlash surrounding Neeson’s comments and said she believes he’s not racist as she’s “known him a pretty long time” and “would have recognised” his bigotry.

“People walk around sometimes with rage, that’s what happens,” she said. “Is he a bigot? No. I’ve been around a lot of real bigots. I can say this man is not one.”

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:: Read the original, exclusive interview that started a global conversation

Goldberg added that she wasn’t surprised Neeson was angry after learning about the rape of a loved one.

“You can’t be surprised that somebody whose loved one is attacked is angry and wants to go out and attack. What he did go on to say... is that he realised that it was too dark for him, he went and got himself help.”

Following the interview with Neeson, which was published on Monday, the actor cancelled a scheduled appearance on Stephen Colbert’s US talk show to promote his new film Cold Pursuit, the premiere of which was cancelled earlier this week. 

Neeson insisted he was not racist in a follow-up interview on Good Morning America, but many felt he “made [matters] worse”.

Speaking on the breakfast show, he said: “There were some nights I went out deliberately into black areas looking to be set upon so that I could unleash physical violence. And I did it maybe four or five times until it caught myself on and it really shocked me. It shocked me and it hurt me. I did seek help.”

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