Liam Neeson denies criticizing Madonna's adoption of African boy

Irish actor Liam Neeson denied Wednesday he ever meant to criticize Madonna's adoption of an African boy, and threatened to sue gossip Web sites over the reports.

Neeson was responding to a range of Internet-based reports of his Jan. 11 comments in Dublin about whether he had ever considered trying to adopt an African kid.

During an appearance as an ambassador for global children's charity UNICEF, Neeson said he had considered the possibility when he visited Mozambique in 2005 and suggested that his wife, actress Natasha Richardson, was more open to the option.

"I'm always arguing with my wife about it," Neeson was quoted as saying Jan. 11. "It was something I considered when I was there but ... to be honest with you, I have a lot of issues with it. With taking a child away from its parents if they were alive, its culture, its country."

Several gossip Web sites reported the comments beneath headlines and lead paragraphs that said Neeson had criticized Madonna, who adopted a 1-year-old Malawian boy last year in disputed circumstances.

"In response to totally unfounded allegations recently published on the Internet that I had criticized Madonna's decision to adopt an African child, I wish to make it absolutely clear that I have not at any stage sought to criticize or pass judgment on Madonna's decision," Neeson said in a statement supplied by his Belfast lawyer to The Associated Press.

"Indeed I did not even mention her name, and most certainly was not intending to refer to her, during the course of the interview which has been so blatantly distorted," Neeson said.

The Northern Ireland actor, whose starring credits include "Schindler's List," "Rob Roy" and "Michael Collins," said he was "bewildered and disturbed" that the Madonna claims had overshadowed his intention to publicize UNICEF's Change for Good fund-raising campaign.

His lawyer, Paul Tweed, said he was sending letters to several Internet-based news sites "seeking a full and categoric correction and apology."

Neeson and Richardson, who live near New York City, have two boys aged 10 and 11.

Madonna, 48, and her husband, movie director Guy Ritchie, 38, last year adopted David Banda and took the 1-year-old to their home in London even though the boy's father was still alive. Yohane Banda had surrendered his son to an orphanage after his wife died.

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