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Former Today host Billy Bush made his first late-night appearance since he was fired last year over the Access Hollywood tape in which then candidate Donald Trump made his infamous “grab them by the pussy” comment. Bush joined The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to speak about the incident and the current sexual harassment scandals in Hollywood and media.
The Access Hollywood tape resurfaced in the news cycle last week after a report that Trump has been questioning the authenticity of the recording, and just days after Matt Lauer’s disgraced departure as longtime Today co-anchor. Lauer was the one to announce that Bush would be leaving Today in October 2016. Bush had joined the Today team as co-host of the 9 a.m. hour in August 2016.
Colbert asked Bush about his recent op-ed in The New York Times, in which Bush asserted, “He [Trump] said it. ‘Grab ‘em by the pussy.’ Of course he said it.” Bush told the CBS host he was frustrated and offended “on the personal front” by Trump’s refutation of the tape. “Last week, for some reason, he came out with ‘That’s not my voice on the tape,’ ” Bush told Colbert. “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.”
Relating the tape to today’s climate of sexual harassment revelations and the fallout for the men accused, Bush said, “You’ve got 20 women, who used their names. We’ve got powerful people being held accountable now, and sometimes there’s anonymous sources. All of these women came out with their names and told their detailed accounts.”
According to The New York Times, Trump likened the public response to the sexual misconduct allegations against Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore to that following the Access Hollywood tape, recorded in a bus on a live mic before the filming of a live segment in 2005, in which Trump commented about grabbing women’s genitalia to Bush, then co-host of the NBC program. The Times said Trump — who acknowledged that the voice was his and apologized after it was revealed in October 2016 — suggested to a senator earlier this year that the audio was faked.
“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 [Trump] opening wounds on them, too. Enough’s enough. Stop playing around with people’s lives,” said Bush.
Colbert replayed the infamous tape during the interview and asked Bush for his reaction. “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.”
Bush explained that Trump’s status at NBC in 2005 meant he was a very powerful person at the network. “At the time he was the big star of NBC, and I sort of equated what he was saying to some kind of crass performance act,” he said.
Bush went on to say, ”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,” Bush continued, after which Colbert asked, “Where was he wearing that ring?”
Speaking about Trump’s election, Bush said, “It’s an unbelievable irony. The very day he was being sworn in I was checking in to a soul-searching retreat in California. It was the beginning of me saying get up and stop being sorry for yourself. Get better. Be a better man, be a better person.”
On the subject of his firing from the Today show, Bush called it an “emotional time” in the country. Colbert then pressed Bush on the subject, asking whether Lauer, at the time still on Today and a man with a lot of influence, had gone to bat for Bush. “We had a conversation about that, and he told me that he went privately to the bosses and took that line,” Bush said. “I said I appreciated it and thanked him. I will say I would have liked to address the audience.”
When speaking about his comeback plans with The Hollywood Reporter earlier this year, Bush said he would have liked the chance to have apologized on the air, though he never got the opportunity. “Looking back upon what was said on that bus, I wish I had changed the topic,” he said during the interview. “[Trump] liked TV and competition. I could’ve said, ‘Can you believe the ratings on whatever?’ But I didn’t have the strength of character to do it.”
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