Australian television royalty Bert Newton has raised eyebrows with a confusing speech at last night’s Logie Awards at the Gold Coast, in which he referred to himself using a gay slur.

Newton, 79, was met with cheers as he took to the stage to introduce the Graham Kennedy Award for Most Popular New Talent, before making the strange comment.

“As I look out on the audience, I’ve got to be honest,” he said.

“There are many faces that I know from the screen but don’t know them personally. You might feel the same way—where’s this old poof come from?”

Social media users reacted with surprise, with many shocked by Newton’s use of the slur and some even questioning whether he had picked an odd way to come out.

“Um, did Bert just out himself?” asked one person.

Others called the comment “homophobic”, but not everyone was offended by Newton’s turn of phrase.

Some suggested it was a reference to an “in joke” between Newton and Kennedy, who passed away in 2005.

“I’m gay, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest,” posted one person.

“As a gay male, I can honestly say that Bert Newton’s use of the word poof on stage at #Logies2018 when referring to himself was definitely not offensive. People need to get off the PC bandwagon,” wrote another.

The rest of Newton’s speech was packed with jokes well-received by the live audience, until he came to speak about entertainment icon Kennedy.

“Speaking of young talent, Graham Kennedy was always the sort of man who nurtured young talent,” Newton said.

“He enjoyed giving young people a chance on television, he was a great mentor. He mentored a lot of young people.

“You knew if you went to his dressing room and it was locked, he would be inside doing some mentoring.”

The joke was met with shock by the audience, and reactions on social media have questioned its good taste, particularly given the current #MeToo movement.

“Interesting choice for Bert Newton to imply Graham Kennedy was a serial sexual abuser while presenting an award named in his honour,” posted one person.

Others called it “odd and jarring”, and said they “[couldn’t] believe people laughed”.

Newton has defended his comments about Kennedy.

“It was totally innocent so far as I am concerned,” he told News Corp.

“In fairness these days, everything is jumped on.

“I am not that sort of person. I didn’t mean anything untoward.”

Newton has been an Australian television fixture for six decades, and was himself inducted into the Logie Hall of Fame in 1988.

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