Neil Patrick Harris and Mike Tyson perform together at the Tony Awards.

Neil Patrick Harris and Mike Tyson perform together at the Tony Awards.

Neil Patrick Harris put on a sensational number at the Tony Awards Show Sunday night. But in all the excitement, he appeared to use the n-word after former heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson appeared on stage. Or did he?

Gossip sites were quick to pick up the seeming, and potentially embarrassing, mistake, touching off a spiraling Internet debate over whether he said, or didn’t say, the racial epithet.

Gossip site TMZ, which has has a habit of sometimes jumping to conclusions reported that Harris dropped the n-word, but added the caveat “or at least that’s how it sounds.”

“We’ve played it back dozens of times, and can’t come up with another explanation,” the website reported, or rather, speculated. But hey, it’s the Internet, who waits for the facts?

That touched off a storm of copycat stories by other websites in what passes for journalism these days on the web. TheImproper reported on the phenomenon last month when E!News citing “multiple sources,” claimed it had confirmed Beyonce was carrying her second child in the middle of her current tour.

The report touched off hundreds of similar stories on other websites, including so-called credible sites like the HuffingtonPost. But TheImproper was one of the few websites to refute the story.

Common sense dictated there was no way she could have gone out on a grueling 65-date tour while pregnant, and husband Jay-Z later condemned the story as false.

The latest story appears to be based on a YouTube video of Harris’ performance.

Harris was singing the song’s refrain “we’re going bigger.” He introduced Tyson in the song, and the former boxer appeared on stage. Harris returned to the refrain. It’s possible he suffered a Freudian slip and inadvertently sang the n-word. Then, again, maybe not.

The tabloid London Daily Mail went a step further and reported that Harris sang the line: “Is I his ni**a”

For the record, the Daily Mail claimed the lyrics where:

“In tandem like we planned ’em, forgive me if it’s random
but Mike Tyson had a one man show let’s give the man a hand.
And make things bigger, like bigger,
I’m here with Iron Mike Tyson he’s a heavyweight yo.
We’re going bigger, is I his n***a”

Actually, it sounds like he sings: “We’re going bigger, Tonight it’s bigger.” The alternative, “Tonight it’s ni**er,” makes no sense, suggesting at best that it was a slip of the tongue.

Whatever the case, it certainly wasn’t intentional. If he did, he didn’t realize it and Tyson, who was standing next to him, showed no visible reaction to what would have been a clear slight.

Today, Harris tweeted about the incident: “I would NEVER be so disrespectful,” he wrote.

So as it happens in these cases, you have to judge for yourself. We’ve got the video below. Check it out. The alleged offensive word occurs around the 3:20 mark. Let us know your thoughts and follow TheImproper on Twitter for all the latest celebrity updates.