Liam Neeson says that the Hollywood sexual harassment scandal has sparked “a bit of a witch hunt”.
His comments came after screen legend Catherine Deneuve said that men are being unfairly targeted by sexual misconduct allegations and should be free to hit on women.
Asked about the issue, Neeson, 65, told The Late Late Show on RTE: “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 programme….”
He said that he was “on the fence” about allegations levelled at Dustin Hoffman.
“When you’re doing a play and you’re with your family, other actors and technicians, you do silly things. 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,” the Irish star said.
“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.”
Last year, actress Anna Graham Hunter alleged 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.
Playwright Cori Thomas accused him 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.
Neeson said of the #MeToo movement: “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.”
His comments sparked criticism on Twitter.
@DrMMcMahonEP wrote: “Disappointed by Liam Neeson’s comments. Reinforcing the idea that inappropriately touching women was the norm and therefore OK. The reference to a ‘witch hunt’ also irked me.”
@infinityonhi wrote: “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.