Billy Bush is paying the price for participating in a lewd conversation with Donald Trump on the Access Hollywood set in 2005.
The “Today” show host has been suspended by NBC News while they delve deeper into the incident in question, which took place in 2005 aboard the Access Hollywood bus. The announcement was made on Monday, early in the live broadcast. “Today” host Savannah Guthrie delivered the news, providing very few details about if and when Bush, 44, may return to the set. According to Entertainment Weekly the statement echoed that sent to “Today” staffers in regards to the Trump tape leak and Bush’s punishment. Al Roker has stepped in to host the show’s third hour in his absence.
“We want to note one other thing: 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,” Guthrie said.
While NBC News has not released a timeline of how long they expect to keep Bush away from hosting “Today,” rumors are swirling that his suspension may lead to a permanent exit from the show. Sources told People on Monday that Bush’s co-hosts don’t feel that he should return. It has been said that they feel he “hasn’t really endeared himself to the rest of the cast and crew.” Following an August comment he made about Ryan Lochte after it was revealed that the Olympian had lied about an incident in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, coupled with this most recent scandal, some on set are reportedly questioning whether he’s “a liability.”
“The network and producers are going to have to decide if he’s such a liability that they have to take stronger action,” the source said. “Does anyone tune in to ‘Today’ to watch Billy? Probably not really. So if he leaves, it’s not a big deal.”
NBC staffers were briefed on the situation in a memo sent by network executive Noah Oppenheim. In it, he called the audio “deeply” troubling, adding that Bush’s comments were inexcusable. It was then that he revealed that the “Today” host had been suspended.
“I know we’ve all been deeply troubled by the revelations of the past 48 hours. Let me be clear — there is simply no excuse for Billy’s language and behavior on that tape,” Oppenheim wrote. “NBC has decided to suspend Billy, pending further review of this matter.”
The video in question hit the web on Friday. It was released by the Washington Post and featured Bush laughing along while Trump, 59 at the time, bragged about trying and failing to make a pass at a married woman. The Republican presidential nominee can be heard stating that his star power often persuades women to let him be inappropriate with them. The conversation then turned to actress Arianne Zucker, who was escorting the two men on the television set. Describing Zuker to Trump, Bush said that she was “hot as s---.”
“I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump — who, at the time, had only recently gotten married to wife Melania Trump — said. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”
Both Trump and Bush have issued apologies for their participation in what has been described as “locker room talk.” Still, many are not happy with either man’s statement. On Oct. 7 Bush said that he was “embarrassed and ashamed” by his comments in the clip. He claimed that he was “foolishly playing along” with Trump during the conversation, assuring fans that he does not feel that way about women today. Trump’s video apology explained to the American public that he “never said” he was perfect, adding that he was regretful about what he said in the video.
“I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am,” Trump wrote.