eddie mcguire

Despite Eddie McGuire’s drug-addled revisionism today, the other man in the room remains unequivocal: McGuire said he would “bone” Jessica Rowe.

“He did not say ‘burn’,” Mark Llewellyn told Crikey this morning, rejecting a new account from McGuire in an interview with GQ magazine. It was Llewellyn who first exposed the blokey boardroom language around then-Channel Nine host Jessica Rowe in an explosive affidavit in 2006.

“Nor did Eddie use any other word that I may have misheard, like ‘let’s phone Jessica’ or ‘let’s get Jessica an ice cream cone’ or ‘I am thinking of getting a two-tone jacket for Jessica to wear on air’. Eddie said what he said.

“If Eddie felt this strongly at the time he could have demonstrated the courage of his conviction in court. He didn’t. He and Nine backed out. I swore an affidavit asserting the truth of the matter. Eddie said it.

“Perhaps Eddie was on strong pain killers at the time. I certainly wish I had been,” Llewellyn added, a reference to another part of the GQ interview — widely pilloried today — where McGuire says his greatly regretted racial slur against Adam Goodes came about because he was on “massive painkillers and crutches”.

McGuire’s air-brushed chat with GQ in the wake of yet another scandal — when he participated in an on-air joke suggesting acclaimed football journalist Caroline Wilson should be drowned — reignites one of the great disputes in Australian television history. Nine took legal action (later dropped) against Llewellyn to stop him from defecting to Channel Seven; Llewellyn’s affidavit — leaked to Crikey — contained juicy detail on what McGuire, then Nine CEO, wanted to do about the ratings-challenged Today and its under-fire presenter.

When the affidavit leaked Nine disputed its contents and tried to have it suppressed. It backed down after Crikey published, saying there was no longer any point in pursuing the injunction. The affidavit’s contents were never tested in court, but Llewellyn has stood by them.

“I remember it so clearly because it jarred so greatly when Eddie crudely said it,” he told us today.

According to excerpts GQ released to the media, McGuire acknowledges “boned” was a “term that was bandied about” — but, he insists, by the TV types in Sydney and not down in Melbourne by him. In fact, McGuire says, it was a term Llewellyn himself used:

“It was a Sydney term and it was one that Mark Llewellyn, and others, used quite regularly.

“Having said that, it was a rhetorical question put to the director of news as to what he was going to do to save Jessica Rowe as she was getting pounded [in the press]. And I refute that I said ‘boned’ — I may have said ‘burned’.”

McGuire says a confidentiality agreement stopped him from telling his side of the discussion he’d had with Llewellyn. Llewellyn, who says he wasn’t contacted by GQ to check the claims, utterly rejects the claim “boned” was ever a term he used. “I had never used it in conversation with him or anyone else,” Llewellyn said this morning. “Eddie said it.”

Rowe is now a host on Channel Ten morning show Studio 10. Asked about the incident this morning, she said it was a “really terrible time” in her life she’d rather leave behind (“the best revenge is me living well and that means being happy”). In her autobiography released last year, Rowe recalled when the affidavit leaked McGuire called up to apologise to her husband, Peter Overton, a key host at Nine. He told her that evening he hadn’t said he wanted to “bone” her.

Llewellyn’s account has been consistent. In 2011, when McGuire told The Australian it wasn’t a term he used, Llewewllyn said that “not only do I remember Eddie McGuire saying what he did, I remember how he looked as he said it. Including his smirk as he used the ‘bone’ word.”

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey