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Eddie McGuire explains Bert Newton’s ‘racist’ slur during THAT Muhammad Ali moment

Bert Newton had an illustrious career – but as Australia mourns his passing at age 83 on Saturday, some of his less impressive moments have come to the fore. 

One such faux pas came at the the 1979 Logie Awards, when the veteran entertainer said to champion boxer Muhammad Ali, ‘I like the boy’. 

The term ‘boy’ is considered to be a derogatory name by the African-American community.

In those days: Bert Newton’s famous faux pas came at the the 1979 Logie Awards, when the veteran entertainer said to champion boxer Muhammad Ali, ‘I like the boy’ (pictured) 

However looking back at the moment – which many dubbed racist – during Channel Nine’s Sunday night special, Bert Newton: Let Me Entertain You, Eddie McGuire insisted the exchange was misconstrued. 

‘He’d been saying it for months beforehand,’ Eddie explained, as a package of Bert uttering the phrase ‘I like the boy’ various times, to various people, was played. 

‘Bert was always saying that line. You saw that Muhammad Ali understood that there was no ill intention and realised what was going on. And Bert genuinely didn’t mean anything by it’. 

Explained: However looking back at the moment - which many dubbed racist - during Channel Nine's Sunday night special, Bert Newton: Let Me Entertain You, Eddie McGuire (pictured) insisted the exchange was misconstrued.

Explained: However looking back at the moment – which many dubbed racist – during Channel Nine’s Sunday night special, Bert Newton: Let Me Entertain You, Eddie McGuire (pictured) insisted the exchange was misconstrued.

Did it before: 'He'd been saying it for months beforehand,' Eddie explained, as a package of Bert uttering the phrase 'I like the boy' various times, to various people, was played

Did it before: ‘He’d been saying it for months beforehand,’ Eddie explained, as a package of Bert uttering the phrase ‘I like the boy’ various times, to various people, was played

Comedian Shaun Micallef further explained that the phrase ‘I like the boy’ is a reference to various older comedy skits. 

‘”I like the boy’ is a quote of the old Warner Brothers’ cartoon character of Foghorn Leghorn, which is in itself a quote back in the late ’30s, early ’40s from an old radio program character called Senator Claghorn,’ Shaun said.   

In 2019, Newton reflected on the time he met Muhammad Ali at the Logies awards.

'Bert was always saying that line. You saw that Muhammad Ali understood that there was no ill intention and realised what was going on. And Bert genuinely didn't mean anything by it,' Edie explained. The famous moment is shown

‘Bert was always saying that line. You saw that Muhammad Ali understood that there was no ill intention and realised what was going on. And Bert genuinely didn’t mean anything by it,’ Edie explained. The famous moment is shown 

Insight: Comedian Shaun Micallef (pictured) further explained that the phrase 'I like the boy' is a reference to various older comedy skits

Insight: Comedian Shaun Micallef (pictured) further explained that the phrase ‘I like the boy’ is a reference to various older comedy skits

In an interview with TV WEEK, the veteran TV host confessed to having been starstruck by the late boxing legend. 

Newton maintained that taking to the Logies stage alongside Muhammad was one of the highlights of his career, despite the embarrassing gaffe.

Ali had joined Newton – who was hosting the event – onstage to present the Gold Logie.

Logies: In 2019, Newton reflected on the time he met Muhammad Ali (left) at the awards show in 1979. Newton maintained that taking to the Logies stage alongside Muhammad was one of the highlights of his career, despite the embarrassing gaffe that many branded racist

Logies: In 2019, Newton reflected on the time he met Muhammad Ali (left) at the awards show in 1979. Newton maintained that taking to the Logies stage alongside Muhammad was one of the highlights of his career, despite the embarrassing gaffe that many branded racist

After a bit of banter, Ali had seemingly grown tired of the small talk and told Newton: ‘I was told I was coming here to give out an award, they didn’t tell me I was going to do an interview.’

Clearly taken aback by his comment, Newton was also able to see the humour in his remark, and encouraged by the audience’s laughter, quipped: ‘I like the boy.’  

Many in the audience seemed shocked by Newton’s remark, and even Ali asked him to clarify what he had said.

Comments: Many in the audience seemed shocked by Newton's remark, and even Ali asked him to clarify what he had said

Comments: Many in the audience seemed shocked by Newton’s remark, and even Ali asked him to clarify what he had said 

‘Did you say Roy or boy?’ he asked Newton, who said he had indeed said ‘boy’.

Seemingly perplexed, Newton then turned to the audience and asked: ‘Is there anything wrong with saying that?’

But he was able to quickly rectify the situation, winning Ali over by telling him he’d do ‘anything’ for him.  

‘I’ll change religion for you, I’ll do anything, I don’t care,’ Newton insisted with a smile, which seemed to kill the tension.  

Final photo: TV legend Bert died on Saturday night. On October 24, Patti posted a photo of a beaming Newton recovering in his hospital bed while surrounded by five of his grandchildren

Final photo: TV legend Bert died on Saturday night. On October 24, Patti posted a photo of a beaming Newton recovering in his hospital bed while surrounded by five of his grandchildren

Bert died on Saturday night, after a stunning career that beamed him into the living rooms of Australians for more than 70 years. 

He had been receiving palliative care at a clinic in Melbourne at the time of his death, following a long health battle that led to one of his legs being amputated in May. 

The TV personality is survived by his wife Patti, 76, daughter Lauren, 40, son Matthew, 40, and six grandchildren. 

His life will be celebrated in an upcoming state funeral in Melbourne. 

Family: The TV personality is survived by his wife Patti, his two kids, and six grandchildren. Bert's daughter Lauren Newton has six children: Sam, 11, Eva, nine, Lola, six, Monty, two, Perla, 19 months, and newborn son, Alby. All pictured but for son Matthew

Family: The TV personality is survived by his wife Patti, his two kids, and six grandchildren. Bert’s daughter Lauren Newton has six children: Sam, 11, Eva, nine, Lola, six, Monty, two, Perla, 19 months, and newborn son, Alby. All pictured but for son Matthew 

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