Liam Neeson says that the Hollywood sexual harassment scandal has sparked ‘a bit of a witch hunt’ and described himself as ‘on the fence’ about allegations facing Dustin Hoffman.
His comments followed screen legend Catherine Deneuve saying men are being unfairly targeted by sexual misconduct allegations and should be free to make advances toward women.
Asked about the issue, the 65-year-old Taken star told Irish television’s The Late Late Show on RTE ‘there is a bit of a witch hunt happening’.
‘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 programme,’ he added.
Liam Neeson, pictured left at the Irish premiere of The Commuter, told The Late Late Show that ‘there is a bit of a witch hunt happening’ and said alleged groping by Dustin Hoffman, right, was ‘childhood stuff’
Neeson also addressed actress Anna Graham Hunter’s allegations that Hoffman groped her and made inappropriate comments when she was a 17-year-old intern on the set of the 1985 TV movie Death Of A Salesman.
‘When you’re doing a play and you’re with your family, other actors and technicians, you do silly things,’ he said.
‘You do silly things and it becomes superstitious. If you don’t do it every night you think it’s going to jinx the show.
‘I think Dustin Hoffman… I’m not saying I’ve done similar things like what he did. Apparently he touched a girl’s breast and stuff, but it’s childhood stuff.’
Playwright Cori Thomas accused Hoffman of exposing himself to her in a New York hotel room in 1980, when she was 16.
In response to Hunter’s allegations, Hoffman issued a statement saying the incident ‘is not reflective of who I am’.
On the Irish chat show, Neeson also defended US radio presenter and writer Garrison Keillor, who was dropped by Minnesota Public Radio last year over an allegation of ‘inappropriate behaviour’.
Hollywood has been hit by a wave of sexual harassment and assault allegations following the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which alleged victims of sex abuse responded to by sharing experiences on Twitter using the hashtag #MeToo.
Discussing the #MeToo campaign, Neeson said: ‘There is a movement happening and it’s healthy and it’s across every industry.
‘The focus seems to be on Hollywood at the minute, but it’s across every industry.’
The Irish actor’s comments sparked criticism on Twitter, with @DrMMcMahonEP saying she was ‘disappointed by Liam Neeson’s comments’.
Liam Neeson said the #MeToo backlash against sexual harassment in Hollywood was ‘healthy’
‘Reinforcing the idea that inappropriately touching women was the norm and therefore OK,’ she added. ‘The reference to a “witch hunt” also irked me.’
Another user – @infinityonhi – speculated that the Star Wars actor’s reputation lay in ruins, writing: ‘I can’t believe this Liam Neeson was a national treasure and now….he’s over.’
But @RealSarahFlynn wrote: ‘You mightn’t like it but at least he’s authentic and I don’t think calling elements of it a witch hunt is that terribly untrue.’
And @ToastHawk1 added: ‘Everybody is so quick to condemn Liam Neeson. It’s a radical way of thinking, but what if he’s right.
‘Think of the Salem Witch Trials and the Red Scare. People were falsely accused for others’ personal gain. We can’t instantly shun someone when they’ve only been accused.’
Neeson’s comments came after stars wore black at the Golden Globes to protest against sexual misconduct in Hollywood.
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