Los Angeles, Jan 13 (PTI) Liam Neeson has defended veteran actor Dustin Hoffman, saying that the campaign against sexual harassment in Hollywood is becoming “a bit of a witch hunt”.
Hoffman has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women he worked with. The actor had offered an apology to the first woman, who interned on the set of his 1985 TV film “Death of a Salesman.” In a statement, he said the behaviour was “not reflective of who I am.” But he has not commented on the other accusations.
In an interview with an Irish talk show, Neeson said, “There is a bit of a witch hunt happening, too. 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.”
Neeson specifically spoke about the allegations against Garrison Keillor, who was fired last year from Minnesota Public Radio for “inappropriate behaviour”.
He said he was “on the fence” in relation to some of the allegations that have emerged against Hoffman and appeared to dismiss breast groping as “childhood stuff”.
“The Dustin Hoffman thing, I’m on the fence about that.
Because when you’re doing a play and you’re with your family, other actors, technicians, you do silly things. 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.
“I think Dustin Hoffman was… I’m not saying I’ve done similar things like what he did. Apparently, he touched another girl’s breast and stuff. But it’s childhood stuff what he was doing,” Neeson said.
Neeson, however, acknowledged that the wider movement against harassment was “healthy” as it is not just confined to show business.
“There is a movement happening. 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.
“I’m a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and a very proud one.
And I get sent facts and figures and stuff. And if you read the stuff I’ve read about how female labourers are being treated in farms, ranches, and all the rest of it, it’s chilling,” Neeson said.
The “Taken” actor was slammed on Twitter for his comments.
“Liam Neeson: witch hunt is a term for false accusations against the vulnerable by the powerful, so it’s not an accurate description of holding privileged men in power accountable for their actions. A witch hunt never ends. We just want men to stop abusing their power,” wrote one of the users.
Another user wrote,”Liam Neeson on the ‘Late Late’ suggesting that Hoffman might simply rub a co-star’s breasts in superstition before a performance. A grope for good luck as it were. ‘Childhood stuff’. Yeah, if there’s a line to be drawn Liam, I don’t see it’s there.”
One of the users called on the women actors to stop working with Neeson.
“Don’t work with Liam Neeson, ladies,” she wrote.
“Oh God, Liam… it’s not ‘childhood stuff’ when they were grown men, it’s being lecherous, inappropriate creeps. I really like Liam, but just, no…,” wrote another user.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.