A year and a half after his world was turned upside down, Billy Bush has not forgotten the details.
In his first televised interview since President Donald Trump was inaugurated, the former Today co-host faced the leaked Access Hollywood tape that changed his life as he knew it last October. As most remember from that time, the footage documented Bush and Trump talking on a bus. While they could not be seen, their voices would be heard thanks to hot microphones that picked up the president's graphic remarks—most notoriously among them—"Grab them by the p---y, you can do anything." Trump later apologized for the comments and called them "locker room talk."
Now, more than a year after Bush parted ways with NBC and Trump was elected the 45th president of country, a New York Times report claimed the commander-in-chief has since suggested the voice on the tape is not his. The TV host was infuriated.
"I would also like to say that's not me on the bus," he told The Late Show's Stephen Colbert. "You don't get to say that because I was there and the last 14 months of my life I have been dealing with it. [Trump] dealt with it for 14 minutes and went on to…be the president."
Bush was not only personally angry with the alleged denial, but also sympathetic toward Trump's accusers. "You're reopening wounds on them, too," he added. "Enough's enough. Stop playing around with…people's lives."
Meanwhile, the television host was on the other side of the scandal as he faced repercussions for his participation in the hot mic conversation swiftly after it was first made public.
"It was like a gut punch," Bush described seeing the footage for the first time, three days before it leaked. "It's a gut punch now. It will always be."
"At the time, it was 2005," he continued, setting the scene. "[Trump's] ratings were through the roof and he was the big star of NBC and I sort of equated what he was saying to some kind of crass stand-up act." According to Bush, the president's remarks felt he was "doing his bit."
"If I had thought there was a man detailing a sexual assault strategy to me, I would have called the FBI, not just my executive producer," Bush stated.
However, in what he considers "an unbelievable irony," Bush ultimately suffered the greater consequences as he exited his relatively new gig at Today. The irony presented itself visually to the former co-host just as he was taking the first step to put his life back together after the fallout of the tape's scandal.
"The very day that he was swearing in as the 45th president of the United States, I was checking into this soul-searching retreat in Santalina, California, Bush recalled of the nine-day, off-the-grid experience. "It was the beginning of me saying, 'Alright. Get up. Stop being sorry for yourself…there's life to live. Let's go get better. Be a better man. Be a better person.'"
However, his old and new worlds converged just as he was beginning the next chapter of his life. "I passed a television in the office when I was checking in…he's got the hand up and I'm going into my little cabin to do the work," Bush described. "Tough. Irony."
Bush also revealed that his past colleague, recently fired former Today co-anchor, Matt Lauer, told Bush that he had privately gone to the bosses and he, in return, thanked him and appreciated his support. Meanwhile, Bush told Colbert he wished he had gotten a chance to address the Today audience after the tape was released, he's ultimately getting the chance now with help from this interview and his recent New York Times op-ed. Going forward, the public figure is calling for everyone to continue this current, crucial conversation.
"Women must be believed and we kind of have to find our way to have the dialogue," he urged. "We get onto the next thing…the next outrage comes. We have to continue it all the way through and I hope we do that."
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