Billy Bush: Matt Lauer Defended Me Amid Donald Trump ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape Scandal

Billy Bush gave his first TV interview on Monday, December 4, a year after the infamous 2005 Access Hollywood video featuring himself and Donald Trump was leaked to The Washington Post.

Bush, who got fired from the Today show in the aftermath, spoke about the scandal during The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

“It was a difficult time. I think it was very hot, emotionally in the country. A lot of people were not comfortable with the man who was close to winning the election and a lot of things happened quickly,” Bush, 46, said. “The very day he was swearing in as the 45th President of the United States, I was checking into this soul-searching retreat in Santalina, California, for nine days.”

Billy Bush on ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert‘
Billy Bush on ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert‘ Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

He added: “My boss, later, months later, said publicly, ‘I think we may have moved a little quickly.’ I will say, I would have liked the chance to have been able to address the audience that following Monday. But it was right after the [presidential] debate and I think the tape made it in time for the debate, so I didn’t get that.”

In the controversial clip, Bush and Trump, 71, could be heard on a hot mic having a vulgar, misogynistic conversation. The then-Celebrity Apprentice host said he is “automatically attracted to beautiful women” and starts kissing them. “Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” he said at the time. “Grab ’em by the pussy.”

“The first time I ever heard it was three days before it leaked,” Bush told Colbert. “It was a gut punch, it’s a gut punch now. It will always be. At the time, it was 2005, and his 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, like an Andrew Dice Clay performance. You kind of figure, ‘Well that’s not Dice when he’s home. He actually doesn’t do those things.’ If I had thought there was a man detailing a sexual assault strategy to me, I would’ve called the FBI, not just reported it to my executive producer. That was it for me. … Everybody sort of had to kiss the ring of the Donald because he was making so much money for NBC.”

Al Roker, Hoda Kotb, Billy Bush, and Matt Lauer appear on NBC's ‘Today‘ show at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Al Roker, Hoda Kotb, Billy Bush, and Matt Lauer appear on NBC’s ‘Today‘ show at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Joe Scarnici/NBC via Getty Images

Trump apologized for his derogatory comments after the clip surfaced, but recently there have been reports that POTUS claims that the tapes are fake. Bush slammed that theory in a New York Times op-ed piece on Sunday, December 3.

“He said it. Of course he said it,” Bush wrote. “Along with Donald Trump and me, there were seven other guys present on the bus at the time, and every single one of us assumed we were listening to a crass stand-up act. He was performing. Surely, we thought, none of this was real. We now know better.”

Amid the controversy last year, Bush said that his former colleague Matt Lauer stood by him. Last week, Lauer was fired from Today after an employee accused him of sexual misconduct in the workplace. Since then, more women have come forward with allegations.

“[Matt and I] had a conversation about that. He told me that he went privately to the bosses,” he recalled. “I said, ‘I appreciated it,’ and accepted it and thanked him.”

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