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Opinion Billy Bush defines access journalism

In this 2005 frame from video, Donald Trump prepares for an appearance on “Days of Our Lives” with actress Arianne Zucker (center). He is accompanied to the set by “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush. (Obtained by The Washington Post)

On his show Friday night, HBO’s Bill Maher gave a helping hand to Billy Bush. “So I had Kathy Griffin on last week and I feel like this is my month to rehabilitate people who should not have been made to go away,” said Maher, host of “Real Time.” Toward that end, Maher suggested that Bush’s role in that awful 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape capturing Trump boasting of sexual assault was a no-fault affair.

“It is weird that he kept his job and you lost yours,” said Maher. At the time of the 2005 taping, Bush was a correspondent on NBC’s “Access Hollywood,” though in 2016 he’d gain a promotion to the team of the “Today” show. He lost that job in October 2016, after The Post published Trump’s “grab ’em by the … ” remarks.

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On the fateful tape, Bush plays along with Trump’s misogynistic banter. Months and months after the tape’s revelation, however, Maher positioned him as the victim of a falling brick. “Life is random. Bad things happen to good people. Good things happen to bad people,” said Maher. Good thing that “Real Time” loaded the panel with Nayyera Haq, a former State Department official who spoke of the need for “social courage” to speak out in situations such as the Bush-Trump moment.

Social courage, or journalistic courage, apparently wasn’t in Bush’s portfolio in those days. As he told Maher, he “spent a lot of time” with Trump in the mid-2000s, when Trump was doing his reality-TV thing on NBC’s “The Apprentice.” “I was the entertainment correspondent for NBC … he was the cash cow, he was pulling 20 million viewers a week or something, so I’m with him two-three times a week,” said Bush.

“So you had to kiss his ass,” said Maher.

And then Bush responded with an informal definition of access journalism: “Sort of. You sort of meet them where they are. Or you can interrupt him and then — you know how volatile he is, right? So he’ll be like, ‘I hate Billy Bush. He’s done, moving on: “Entertainment Tonight” only. Forget Billy Bush.’ And then I have to explain why I lost Trump, the big fish.”