Liam Neeson says there's a 'witch hunt' in Hollywood over harassment allegations

Liam Neeson with President of Ireland Michael D Higgins

"There is a bit of a witch hunt happening", Neeson said.

Following the story about Keillor, The Late Late Show's host Ryan Tubridy cited the names of Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman as examples of other prominent men who have been accused of misconduct, but Neeson stood by his fellow actors.

Neeson's award, with which he was gifted today, reads: "As an extremely gifted and internationally renowned film actor, Liam Neeson has helped to raise Ireland's profile and awareness of Ireland and Irish artists around the world, especially in the United States where he is based".

Speaking about the wave of allegations and the emergence of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, Neeson acknowledged that it was "healthy" for the entertainment industry to face up to the problems which have been laid bare by the scandals.

"There's a bit of a witch hunt happening", he said, echoing the term controversially used by French actor Catherine Deneuve earlier this week. "There are some people - famous people - being suddenly accused of touching some girl's knee or something, and suddenly have been dropped from their program or something".

Neeson referred to the recent case of Garrison Keillor, a writer and broadcaster who was sacked by Minnesota Public Radio late past year, to illustrate his point. It becomes superstitious, if you don't do it every night you think it's going to jinx the show.

He immediately took his hand away and apologised. "She said "don't worry about it, forget about it".

He said that the woman had said it was fine, but months later his station had received a call from the woman's solicitor, and his radio station then "dropped him".

Hoffman has been accused of harassment and assault by multiple women, charges which he has strenuously denied.

"I think our reason for having the award is to be able to say the Irish family isn't defined by national borders or territories".

However, Neeson distanced himself from Hoffman's alleged behaviour, saying: "I'm not saying I've done similar things to what he's done". "The focus seems to be on Hollywood at the minute", he said. But it's across every industry. "And I get sent facts and figures and stuff - and if you've 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".

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