About 10 days after NBC’s “Today” co-anchor Billy Bush was heard on a 2005 tape laughing and joking as Donald Trump made lewd comments about kissing and groping women, he is officially gone from the morning show.
“Billy Bush will be leaving the ‘Today’ show’s 9 a.m. hour, effective today,” NBC Senior Vice President Noah Oppenheim wrote in a memo to staff on Monday evening. “While he was a new member of the ‘Today’ team, he was a valued colleague and longtime member of the broader NBC family. We wish him success as he goes forward.”
“I am deeply grateful for the conversations I’ve had with my daughters, and for all of the support from family, friends and colleagues. I look forward to what lies ahead,” Bush said in a separate statement.
Bush’s exit was only a matter of time. He was suspended last week after the video, first published by The Washington Post on Oct. 7, featured a conversation between the GOP presidential nominee and Bush (caught on hot mics) while they were on a bus to film a segment on “Access Hollywood,” where Bush was a host. Trump is heard talking about how he liked to automatically start kissing beautiful women: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do everything,” Trump says, while Bush laughs and adds, “Whatever you want.” “Grab them by the p—y,” Trump says.
Both apologized for the language used on the tape; Bush said he was “embarrassed and ashamed” and noted that “it’s no excuse, but this happened eleven years ago — I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along.” Trump defended the conversation as “locker room talk.” The video received massive criticism, with some Republicans withdrawing support from Trump in the fallout. There were many calls from “Today” viewers for NBC to fire Bush, who joined the morning show in August after working at “Access Hollywood” for 15 years; it was unclear whether his image could recover from the controversy.
In the video, Trump and Bush are heard on the bus commenting on the appearance of Arianne Zucker, the soap actress waiting to film the segment with them. “Yes! The Donald has scored. Whoa, my man!” Bush says about Zucker, calling the actress “hot as s–t.” When they’re outside, Bush asks Zucker, “How about a little hug for the Donald? He just got off the bus.” He follows it up with, “How about a little hug for the Bushy? I just got off the bus.”
During an interview with CNN on Monday, Trump’s wife, Melania Trump, seemed to think Bush was somewhat responsible for her husband’s comments on the tape. She said that Trump “was led on — like, egged on — from the host to say dirty and bad stuff.”
The video was originally revealed on a Friday — by Monday, Bush was off the air from “Today” with 9 a.m. co-hosts Al Roker and Tamron Hall telling viewers that “NBC, which owns ‘Access Hollywood,’ has suspended Billy for his role in that conversation pending further review.”
Last week, Bush and his attorney were working on a “separation deal” with the network. After NBC confirmed the official exit Monday, Bush’s attorney told Variety that “Billy is no longer employed by NBC. He is a free agent, and there is no noncompete,” meaning he could, theoretically, quickly find work elsewhere.
Bush got off to a rough start on the “Today” show this summer, after he landed an exclusive interview at the Olympics in Rio with U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte, who said he was robbed at gunpoint. When Lochte’s story fell apart, Bush wound up in a heated debate with Roker on air while they debated how much Lochte had really lied.
As a member of the NBC Universal family, Bush, 44, frequently appeared on “Today” before he joined the show full time. In May, while making the announcement that Bush would join the 9 a.m. hour as a co-host, the network trumpeted his “boundless energy, a great interviewing style and a deep knowledge of pop culture.”