UPDATE 10/11/16 CNN’s Brian Stelter reporting Billy Bush may never return to Today.
UPDATE: Billy Bush no longer set to apologize on NBC’s Today Monday morning
NBC News is confirming Billy Bush will be off the air Monday Today show’s 9 AM hour, three days after the Washington Post released audio tape of Bush in a lewd, predatory conversation he had with now-GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2005 about women, including Bush’s then Access Hollywood co-host Nancy O’Dell.
UPDATE: CNN’s Brian Stelter is reporting Bush may never return to Today. Is Billy Bush simply disposable? Irredeemable? Is he not worthy of a second chance like Brian Williams who’s narcissistic on-air fantasies destroyed his news credibility or CNN’s Richard Quest who was once arrested after hours in Central Park with meth in his pocket and a rope around his genitals.
Sex scandals are as American as apple pie — but when one involves a presidential candidate (Trump the Vulgarian) and a member of the media (Billy the Wingman), you somehow wind up with Pussygate.
On Friday night, Bush—who is married and has three daughters—released a statement of apology:
“Obviously I’m embarrassed and ashamed. It’s no excuse, but this happened eleven years ago—I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along. I’m very sorry.”
Enough? Hardly. Billy is just as crass as Trump and creates a hostile work environment as he lets Trump demeans his former co-anchor, Nancy O’Dell, because she wouldn’t sleep with him although he went after her like a “bitch” (presumably in heat.)
Bush, anchor of Access Hollywood, was shilling a three-way for NBC… busing the Apprentice host to the set of an NBC soap opera for a cameo with an actress named Arianna Zucker
When they spot the actress, Bush blurts out, ” “Sheeesh, your girl’s hot as shit! In the purple.”
“Whoa! Whoa!” Trump exclaims.
“Yes! The Donald has scored!” Bush answers. With a raucous laugh, he adds: “Whoa, my man! You gotta look at her…Give her the thumbs-up. You gotta give the thumbs-up….Oh my God!”
Trump then remarks that he’s going to use some Tic Tacs, “just in case I start kissing her,” he explains. “When you’re a star, they let you do it.”
“Whatever you want,” Bush agrees.
When the two frat boys get off they bus, Zucker greets Trump with a handshake.
“How about a little hug for The Donald? He just got off the bus,” Bush pimps for Trump who gives her a quick hug and acknowledges, “This is okay with Melania.
“I just got off the bus,” Bush says, and leans in for his own hug from Zucker. “There we go!” he says when the actress complies.
As an author of a book on of political sex scandals in America going back to 1700s, Fall from Grace: the History of Sex, Scandal and Corruption in American Politics (Ballantine) I have researched them all and never before has such outrage and gag reflexes been triggered by the likes of Trump and Billy
. History shows plenty of leaders who loved and lusted after women with whom they didn’t belong.
Their own words show conscience, a longing for romance, an elevation of sex and romance mixed in with their moral stumbling. Absent is a predatory sense of entitlement.
In 1786, the widowed Thomas Jefferson penned one of the greatest love letters in history to Mrs. Maria Cosway, who is married. The 12-page-long letter is a dialogue with his conscience titled, “My Head and My Heart,” in which Jefferson longs for a woman who has made him “the most wretched of all earthly beings.” The letter nobly concludes with Jefferson’s integrity winning over his desire for Cosway.
In 1796, Alexander Hamilton self-published his confession of an affair with a married woman rather than fall victim to financial blackmail during his time as the first secretary of the treasury, He detailed the entire event and included his personal struggles to end the relationship:“The intercourse with Mrs.Reynolds in the meantime continued… Her conduct make it difficult to disentangle myself.”
Warren Harding wrote love letters with erotic zeal to Mrs. Carrie Phillips for over a decade: “There is one engulfing, enthralling rule of love, the song of your whole being which is a bit sweeter — Oh Warren! Oh Warren! “ when your body quivers with divine paroxysms and your shoulder hovers for flight with mine.”
Even Lyndon Johnson added some wit to his seduction of a staffer when he climbed into her bed and instructed, “Move over, this is your President.”
Sex talk among politicians has a great range of emotion and a lot of chivalry. Not one person in high level politics is known to have ever uttered words that boasted an entitlement to sexual assault.
Friday night, Jeb Bush tweeted that no apology would be enough to forgive Donald Trump for his boasting that he can grab a woman’s pussy at will because he’s a star. I tweeted him back to ask if he felt the same about his cousin, Billy, who is seen on the tape egging him on, then pimping him off to a soap opera star for a post-Tic Tac hug. (Jeb Bush didn’t respond.)
While the GOP has bunkered in, the leadership at NBC has hunkered down, trying to access the fallout for their future star of the news division. Bush quickly issued an appropriate apology, but as they say in television, sometimes “sorry” isn’t enough.
At best, Billy Bush created a hostile work environment for those on the bus who undoubtedly decided to “go along to get along.” And who is Bush calling “Honey,” on the bus and does he know how belittling that term is for any woman in the work place.
No one thinks the news division chief, who refused to cut ties with the fully damaged Brian Williams, will summarily fire Bush either. But what should they do when the morning show is so heavily tilted with female viewers.
As a veteran network news executive who’s reported extensively on sexual harassment and has personally managed this dirty secret of the workplace as both an executive and a target (see Daily Beast “Roger Ailes Harassed Me, I Thought I Was the First and the Last), I share my final thoughts on Bush. (The voters get to decide the fate of Trump.)
First, I’d send Billy Bush off to Texas to apologize to the family elders and have his ears boxed by his aunt, Barbara Bush. That would be enough to satisfy me, personally, but there’s more to do.
What about something more meaningful for him, for the rest of the country. Why not assign Bush a Today Show series on sexual harassment, rape on campus, gender equality in Hollywood. Team him up with Jenna Bush, if she even would touch this hot mess. Let him help use this as a teachable moment for himself, first, then guide America to a better dialogue between men and women. This round, why not really groom and grow the anchor of the future.