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Should Billy Bush get a second chance: Shamed NBC host gives first interview since Trump p****gate scandal
Billy Bush says his disgraced former NBC colleague Matt Lauer tried to save his job when the infamous Access Hollywood p***ygate tape was leaked during last year's presidential campaign.
The ousted anchor also claims bosses at the network told him they were too quick to let him go in the months after his lewd conversation with Donald Trump from 2005 surfaced.
Bush, 46, opened up about his firing to Stephen Colbert on Monday in his first late-night talk show appearance since he was shown the door at 30 Rock in October, 2016.
He told The Late Show host that he checked into a 'soul-searching retreat' after the tape was made public during the presidential campaign, and spent nine days without any electronic contact with the outside world.
The former Today Show host also explained that he needed to defend himself by writing an op-ed in the New York Times on Sunday, after the president said it 'wasn't his voice' on the tape.
He reiterated that sentiment on Monday's interview with Colbert, saying: 'He said it. "Grab 'em by the p****." Of course he said it.'
Billy Bush talked to Stephen Colbert about the infamous Access Hollywood tape in which he laughed along as Donald Trump bragged he could grab women by the p****. It was his first late-night talk show appearance since he was fired from NBC in October 2016
The 46-year-old said Matt Lauer (pictured right) spoke to bosses at NBC about saving his job at The Today Show, and that his boss admitted to being hasty in the decision to fire him after the tapes were leaked by the Washington Post during the 2016 election
He was let go almost immediately after the 2005 Access Hollywood audio was published by the Washington Post, and said it was an 'emotional time'. Pictured is a frame from the 2005 video
Bush says Lauer, who was spectacularly fired from his $25-million-a-year job last week following sexual harassment claims, was ready to go to senior executives at NBC to get his job back.
'We had a conversation about that and he told me that he went privately to the bosses and took that line,' Bush told Colbert after being asked if Lauer - who at the time was still on Today and had a lot of influence - had gone to bat for his coworker.
'I said I appreciated it and thanked him. I will say I would have liked to address the audience,' Bush said.
Bush also said that a month after being fired his boss told him 'we may have moved a little quickly.' He wouldn't name the executive he spoke to.
He was let go almost immediately after the 2005 Access Hollywood audio was published by the Washington Post, and said it was an 'emotional time'.
But more than anything, he said he wish he'd changed the subject while he was on the bus.
'Trump liked TV and competition. I could've said "Can you believe the ratings" on whatever? But I didn't have the strength to do it,' he explained.
'If I had thought there was a man detailing a sexual assault strategy to me I would have contacted the FBI and not just brought it to the attention of my producers.
'Everybody had to kiss the ring of Donald because he was making the big money for NBC at the time.' He was the host of The Apprentice at the time.
Speaking about the interview, Bush also said he wish he'd changed the subject while he was on the bus (pictured). Bush said that Trump was such a big name at NBC that people had to 'kiss the ring'
The Access Hollywood tape resurfaced last week when it was reported that President Trump told a senator the voice in the 2005 recording wasn't his.
In response Bush wrote an op-ed in the New York Times to insist the voice was Trump's.
He said he was frustrated and offended 'on the personal front' when he heard Trump had claimed he didn't say it.
'Last week, for some reason, he came out with "that's not my voice on the tape,"' Bush said.
'Like I said, you can't say that. That is your voice. I was there, you were there, that is your voice on the tape.'
The Access Hollywood tape resurfaced last week when it was reported that President Trump told people a senator the voice in the recording wasn't his
In response, Bush wrote an op-ed in the New York Times to insist the voice was Trump's. He reiterated that sentiment on Monday's interview with Colbert, saying: 'He said it. "Grab 'em by the p****." Of course he said it'
He then hit out further at the president, bringing up the laundry list of women who have come forward to accuse Trump of sexually harassing or assaulting them at some point in his career.
'You've got 20 women, who used their names,' Bush said. 'We've got powerful people being held accountable and sometimes there's anonymous sources. All of these women came out with their names and told their detailed accounts.'
He continued: 'As I read these I said, 20 women don't get together and say, "You know what would be fun? Let's take down a powerful guy together." No they don't. You're opening wounds on them, too. Enough's enough. Stop playing around with people's lives.'
The New York Times reported that Trump compared the outrage after the Access Hollywood tape was leaked to the public's response to the sexual assault allegations against Alabama Republican Senate hopeful Roy Moore.
During Monday's interview Colbert replayed the tape and asked how it made Bush feel.
'The first time I ever heard it was three days before it leaked and it was like a gut punch. It's like a gut punch now,' he explained.
Billy Bush has given his first interview since being fired by NBC seven months ago over his role in the Trump p****gate scandal.
The shamed NBC host told The Hollywood Reporter how his life had changed since the pre-election incident and revealed plans for a TV comeback, saying: 'I plan to return to the job that I love.'
He is still in touch with his former colleague Matt Lauer but has heard nothing from the president.
Bush was recorded laughing along in a 2005 video as Trump, then a newly-wed businessman with no public political ambitions, told how he grabbed women 'by the p****'.
At the time Bush was a host on Access Hollywood and Trump was the guest star. The tape was leaked before the election and threatened to thwart the Republican's chances.
Trump, on the cusp of election victory despite being simultaneously plagued by accusations that he had sexually assaulted other women, apologized.
Billy Bush (pictured at LAX on Friday) revealed over the weekend that he wants his NBC job back
He said it was 'locker room talk' and despite global outrage over the comments, went on to win the White House.
Bush, on the other hand, lost his job before he could go back on air to apologize for the tape - an opportunity he said he would have relished.
The irony of their two drastically different fates is 'glaring', he said, but the experience has given him a newfound appreciation for the challenges women face.
In his interview, that was published on Sunday, the TV host disagreed with the president's characterization of their now infamous conversation.
'I'm in a lot of locker rooms, I am an athlete, and no, that is not the type of conversation that goes on or that I've participated in,' he said.
Though shocking, he said he didn't take Trump's words seriously and thought he was merely playing up to his larger-than-life reputation.
'He's a provocateur. Shocking statements flow like wine from him and he likes to captivate an audience.
'I felt that, in that moment, he was being typically Donald, which is performing and shocking. 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.'
Bush was recorded in 2005 laughing along as Donald Trump told him how he grabbed women 'by the p****'. The pair were filming an Access Hollywood segment with Arianne Zucker (above) but had left their mics on
The tapes were leaked by a Today staffer who wanted Bush out. According to Page Six, there was uneasiness surrounding his growing rivalry with Matt Lauer.
Bush was unceremoniously turfed out by the network. He said he still had the support of co-stars who 'knew the real me' but suddenly he was out of work.
Among the first people he found himself answering to was his then 15-year-old daughter Mary who called him crying from boarding school to ask why he'd ever laughed at Trump's vile comments.
'I said, "Everything is going to be fine, Mary. Everything's going to be OK." It's just instinctively what you say to your daughter. And she said, "No, why were you laughing at the things that he was saying on that bus, Dad? They weren't funny."
'It hit really hard, and I stopped for a second, and I said, "I have no answer for that that's any good. I am really sorry.
'That was Dad in a bad moment a long time ago. You know me. I am really sorry that you had to hear and see that. I love you." She needed to hear that, and I certainly needed to tell her that,' he said.
His younger daughter decided never to watch the tape while his oldest, who is 18, was instinctively protective of him.
'My 18-year-old is more of a fighter. She was like, "All right, who do I need to take out?".
While Trump, who had just married Melania at the time, found himself apologizing to her, Bush's wife was more understanding.
Bush (pictured with Donald and Melania in 2004, the year before the tape was recorded) said he believed the businessman was playing up to his shocking persona
While Trump apologized to Melania after the tape emerged, Bush's wife Sydney (pictured together in 2016) was more understanding. 'She knew the person she married,' he said
Bush recalled having to apologize to his 16-year-old daughter Mary (above together) who called him crying when the tape was leaked
'Sydney knows the environment and the atmosphere I was in at the time, and she knows very well the person she married. She has been very supportive from the very beginning,' he said.
Bush admits he was wrong to laugh when the conversation turned to Trump's aggressive seduction tactics.
Along with 'grabbing the by the p****', Trump boasted about kissing women without consent and said he could do 'anything' to them because he was a star.
Bush says he wishes he'd changed the subject but that his relative inexperience at the time and the brightness of Trump's celebrity stopped him.
Describing his own personality at the time as 'almost sycophantic', Bush said: '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 No. 1 star happy.'
The host's youngest daughter Lillie (left) vowed never to watch the tape while his oldest daughter, Josie (right) was instinctively protective of him
The pair had spent significant time together before the hot-mic comments, he said, and the conversation was normally about 'golf, gossip or women.'
He said he was nervous that Trump would be able to have him fired at any moment, a fear which quietened his better judgement when they were on the bus where the comments were made.
Since being fired in October, Bush has been spending time doing yoga and bonding with his three daughters
'Looking back on what was said on that bus, I wish I had changed the topic. I wish I had said: "Does anyone want water?" or "It looks like it's gonna rain." He liked TV and competition. I could've said, "Can you believe the ratings on whatever?" I didn't have the strength of character to do it.'
Since losing his job in October, the 45-year-old host has taken up yoga and immersed himself in retreats in Napa.
He claims he wanted to return to the airwaves immediately after the tape emerged but that the time off was necessary.
Now, he is ready for a comeback and claims that the scandal has done wonders for his grasp of the job and industry.
'Having been in the job as long as I have, I developed a fairly thick skin. My skin is definitely thicker now, and my heart is a little softer underneath it. But I will say I think everybody should have the opportunity to apologize.
'I plan to return to the job that I love, which is television, communicating, interviewing people. I have changed in a way that I think will make me better at my job. I believe there will be more people like me in crisis. And with social media, a flame becomes a bonfire quickly.
'So I will be picking up my pen and writing them and calling them on the phone, and I will pursue these interviews and these moments with these people. And through what I've learned and where I've been, I will tell them, "You have empathetic ears in me."
While bosses didn't give him a chance to apologize, Bush's NBC on-screen colleagues including Tamron Hall, Hoda Kotb, Kathie Lee Gifford, Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie and Al Roker got in touch to offer him their support.
He has been in touch with Nancy O'Dell, whose appearance sparked the conversation with Trump, but he chose not to reveal details of their conversation.