Billy Bush Opens Up About the Trump Access Hollywood Tape That Got Him Fired

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Photo: Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images

Over seven months ago, a video recorded on the set of Access Hollywood in 2005 leaked to the public, revealing then-co-host Billy Bush laughing and encouraging now-president Donald Trump as he made lewd sexual comments about women, including but not limited to his infamous declaration that he can freely “grab ’em by the pussy” if he wanted to. In a new Hollywood Reporter interview, Bush, who subsequently lost his job hosting NBC’s Today and retreated from public life, discusses the tape and its aftermath, largely echoing his previous comments about his embarrassment and the many years that have passed since the conversation occurred. It’s not lost on Bush, however, that there is a vast difference between the tape’s repercussions on his professional life and those experienced by POTUS. “I will admit the irony is glaring. [Trump] has his process for his participation [in the tape], and I have mine. I had to turn this into a positive,” Bush remarks now. “When a woman watches that tape — and this is what really hit me — they may be asking themselves, ‘Is that what happens when I walk out of a room? When I walk out of a meeting, is that what they’re saying about me? Are they sizing me up?’ I can’t live with that.”

Fired by the network during his suspension from the Today show (“I would have welcomed addressing the audience,” he says of the decision), Bush tells THR that he has since reached out to former Access Hollywood cohost Nancy O’Dell, one of the women discussed in the tape, but declined to reveal the content of their conversation. “I recently sent her a communication, yeah,” he reveals. “I need to keep that between me and Nancy.” Having worked with Trump before, Bush says at the time he interpreted The Apprentice star’s comments as Trump’s normal showboating, the veracity of which Bush could never be sure. “I felt that, in that moment, he was being typically Donald, which is performing and shocking,” he claims. “Almost like Andrew Dice Clay, the stand-up comedian: Does he really do the things that he’s saying or is that his act? And in Donald’s case, I equated it that way. When he said what he said, I’d like to think if I had thought for a minute that there was a grown man detailing his sexual assault strategy to me, I’d have called the FBI.” As for his own enthusiastic participation in the tape, Bush blames his “sycophantic” desire to please the show’s famous guests: “I remember that guy, he was almost sycophantic. It was my first year as co-host of Access Hollywood, and I was an insecure person, a bit of a pleaser, wanting celebrities to like me and fit in. There is an expression, ‘Meet them where they are for each person.’ For Ben Affleck, it’s Boston sports. But I went way too far in my desire to keep this number one star happy.”

Bush, who is currently developing his own series in the hopes of returning to TV, doubts his famous last name (and more famous relatives) played much of a role in the ensuing scandal. “This situation happened because I participated in a terrible moment and it became public. It doesn’t matter what your name is,” he concludes. “Anyone who is participating in that moment is going to get it. In that way, I deserved it. Judgment day arrived all of a sudden and very quickly, and it is my own personal hell that judgment day was solely based upon a bad moment 12 years ago and not the complete evolution of the man. But that’s my own private cross to bear and my own issue to work through. It does not in any way excuse the moment on that tape and the way people reacted because I completely understand it.”

Billy Bush Opens Up About the Trump Tape That Got Him Fired