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In the first weekday broadcast since audio emerged of Donald Trump making lewd comments to Billy Bush on an Access Hollywood bus, NBC’s Today show stuck to basic, minimal facts in its references to the tape and Bush’s role in the incident.
Bush, who now co-hosts the third hour of NBC’s Today, was initially expected to appear on Monday’s show and apologize, again, for his role in the incident. But on Sunday night, news broke that Bush would not be on Monday’s show and in fact had been suspended. Today senior vp Noah Oppenheim sent a memo to the show’s staff about Bush’s suspension, saying in part, “There is simply no excuse for Billy’s language and behavior on that tape.”
Still Today viewers were curious to see how the morning show would address Bush’s role in the scandalous comments.
The morning show — hosted on Monday by Savannah Guthrie and NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, filling in for Matt Lauer, who was off Monday — spent its first 15 minutes on Sunday night’s second presidential debate, keeping any references to the tape minimal and in the context of what was said about them during the debate.
The first extended reference to the tapes came from NBC News’ reporter on the scene in St. Louis, Hallie Jackson, who referred to the “vulgar audio that’s thrown [Trump’s] campaign into crisis.” During a news recap, she said the audio was “part of a 2005 conversation with Billy Bush during Access Hollywood, which is presented by NBCUniversal.”
Trump and Clinton campaign managers Kellyanne Conway and Robby Mook, respectively, also referred to the tapes but didn’t mention Bush by name, with Conway insisting that Trump has apologized and Mook countering that his characterization of his remarks as “locker room talk” was him “doubl[ing] down on his non-apology.”
Chuck Todd, Nicolle Wallace and Steve Kornacki were then brought in to analyze the effect of Clinton’s and Trump’s performances on the minds of voters.
It wasn’t until the end of the opening segment that Guthrie addressed Bush’s suspension, saying simply, “Pending further review of the matter, NBC News has suspended Billy Bush, the host of Today‘s third hour, for his role in that conversation with Donald Trump.”
Coverage then turned to the ongoing fallout from Hurricane Matthew.
Today‘s website, meanwhile, had a basic story about Bush’s suspension, titled “Billy Bush suspended from TODAY pending further review,” in the second spot from the left on Monday morning, with a timestamp on the post indicating it had gone live during the NBC morning show. Video of Guthrie’s comment about Bush’s suspension was also tweeted from Today’s official account.
Pending further review of the matter, NBC News has suspended Billy Bush. pic.twitter.com/uYGydJQV4N
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) October 10, 2016
As the first hour of Today continued, there was some further discussion of the tape, but only as it pertained to the effect of Trump’s comments on the Republican party, with Todd, Wallace and Kornacki returning to analyze the state of his campaign and the GOP. It was Jackson again who offered an extended look at the tape in a report, with the morning show airing the part in which Trump pops some Tic Tacs “in case [he started] kissing” a woman, talking about how he’s “attracted to beautiful” and “just start[s] kissing them.” The clip shown also included his “grab them by the p—” comment that quickly made headlines, but the last word was bleeped for the morning show audience and presented as “p****” in an on-air graphic of his comments. On the tape, Bush can be heard laughing and chiming in on Trump’s comments.
By the second hour, which is typically lighter and filled with the show’s interviews with stars, there was a quick recap of the state of both presidential campaigns from NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell, in upstate New York, but the Today co-hosts kept the talk more upbeat, going outside to the plaza and discussing trending topics.
At the top of the Today’s Take 9 o’clock hour, co-hosts Al Roker and Tamron Hall briefly addressed Bush’s absence. Roker said, “As you can see Billy Bush is not joining us. As you’re probably aware, he’s part of that Access Hollywood taping with Donald Trump that’s been in the news all weekend.” Added Hall: “NBC, which owns Access Hollywood, has suspended Billy for his role in that conversation pending further review.” She then turned to the debate, saying, “With that said —.” Bush wasn’t mentioned during the 10 o’clock hour co-hosted by Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb.
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