Ian McKellen has apologized for suggesting that being closeted could prompt gay men to sexually abuse children.
McKellen made the comments this week regarding Kevin Spacey and X-Men director Bryan Singer during a live recording of the #QueerAF podcast during National Student Pride 2019. Both men have been accused of sexually assaulting boys.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News via his publicist, McKellen said his thoughts on the matter were “clumsily expressed.”
“As part of an extended podcast recently, I suggested that if closeted people were instead open about their sexuality they wouldn’t abuse others. That, of course, is wrong,” he said. “My intention was to encourage the LGBT audience I was addressing to be proud and open about their sexuality. In doing so, my point was clumsily expressed. I would never, ever trivialize or condone abuse of any kind. I deeply regret my careless remarks and apologize unreservedly for any distress I caused.”
In his comments during the podcast interview, McKellen said it was because Spacey and Singer — who has been openly gay throughout his career in Hollywood — were closeted that they allegedly sexually abused boys.
“Most of them were in the closet. Hence, all their problems as people and their relationship with other people,” he said during the interview. “If they had been able to be open about themselves and their desires, they wouldn’t have started abusing people in the way they’ve been accused.”
In January, Spacey pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting an 18-year-old man at a Nantucket bar in 2016. Two years earlier in October, Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp told BuzzFeed News Spacey had made an unwanted sexual advance toward him when he was 14. Several other men have also accused Spacey of sexual assault, after which Netflix fired the actor from the hit show House of Cards.
Singer recently faced new allegations published in the Atlantic that he sexually abused and assaulted teenage boys, including a 13-year-old on the set of his 1998 film Apt Pupil, which also starred McKellen.
McKellen, who costarred in Singer’s X-Men movies, also said in the podcast interview that it’s “debatable” whether the two men should continue to work in Hollywood despite the damning allegations.
But McKellen also walked back that position in his statement.
“When it comes to abuse by people in positions of power, the correct response is clear,” he said. “The accusers must be heard and the accused given the opportunity to clear their names. If the accusations prove credible, the abuser’s access to power should be removed.”
Representatives for Spacey and Singer have not responded to requests for comment.