Billy Bush has given his first interview since being fired seven months ago over his role in the Trump p****gate scandal.
The shamed NBC host told The Hollywood Reporter how his life had changed since the pre-election incident which cost him his job.
‘I plan to return to the job that I love,’ he said, indicating plans for a TV comeback.
Bush was recorded laughing along in a 2005 video as Donald Trump, then a newly-wed businessman with no public political ambitions, told how he grabbed women ‘by the p****’.
The tape was leaked before the election and threatened to thwart the Republican’s chances.
Trump, on the cusp of election victory despite being simultaneously plagued by accusations that he had sexually assaulted other women, apologized.
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Billy Bush (pictured at LAX on Friday) revealed over the weekend that he wants his NBC job back
He said it was ‘locker room talk’ and despite global outrage over the comments, he went on to win the White House.
Bush, on the other hand, lost his job before he could go back on NBC to apologize for it – an opportunity he said he would have relished.
The irony of their two drastically differing fates is ‘glaring’, he said, but the experience has given him a newfound appreciation for the challenges women face.
In his interview, that was published on Sunday, the TV host disagreed with the president’s characterization of their now infamous conversation.
‘I’m in a lot of locker rooms, I am an athlete, and no, that is not the type of conversation that goes on or that I’ve participated in,’ he said.
Though shocking, he said he didn’t take Trump’s words seriously and thought he was merely playing up to his larger-than-life reputation.
‘He’s a provocateur. Shocking statements flow like wine from him and he likes to captivate an audience.
‘I felt that, in that moment, he was being typically Donald, which is performing and shocking. When he said what he said, I’d like to think if I had thought for a minute that there was a grown man detailing his sexual assault strategy to me, I’d have called the FBI.’
Bush was recorded in 2005 laughing along as Donald Trump told him how he grabbed women ‘by the p****’. The pair were filming an Access Hollywood segment but had left their mics on
The tapes were leaked by a Today staffer who wanted Bush out. According to Page Six, there was uneasiness surrounding his growing rivalry with Matt Lauer.
Bush was unceremoniously turfed out by the network. He said he still had the support of co-stars who ‘knew the real me’ but suddenly he was out of work.
Among the first people he found himself answering to was his then 15-year-old daughter Mary who called him crying from boarding school to ask why he’d ever laughed at Trump’s vile comments.
‘I said, “Everything is going to be fine, Mary. Everything’s going to be OK.” It’s just instinctively what you say to your daughter. And she said, “No, why were you laughing at the things that he was saying on that bus, Dad? They weren’t funny.”
‘It hit really hard, and I stopped for a second, and I said, “I have no answer for that that’s any good. I am really sorry.
‘That was Dad in a bad moment a long time ago. You know me. I am really sorry that you had to hear and see that. I love you.” She needed to hear that, and I certainly needed to tell her that,’ he said.
His younger daughter decided never to watch the tape while his oldest, who is 18, was instinctively protective of him.
‘My 18-year-old is more of a fighter. She was like, “All right, who do I need to take out?”.
While Trump, who had just married Melania at the time, found himself apologizing to her, Bush’s wife was more understanding.
Bush (pictured with Donald and Melania in 2004, the year before the tape was recorded) said he believed the businessman was playing up to his shocking persona
While Trump apologized to Melania after the tape emerged, Bush’s wife Sydney (pictured together in 2016) was more understanding. ‘She knew the person she married,’ he said
Bush recalled having to apologize to his 16-year-old daughter Mary (above together) who called him crying when the tape was leaked
‘Sydney knows the environment and the atmosphere I was in at the time, and she knows very well the person she married. She has been very supportive from the very beginning,’ he said.
Bush admits he was wrong to laugh when the conversation turned to Trump’s aggressive seduction tactics.
Along with ‘grabbing the by the p****’, Trump boasted about kissing women without consent and said he could do ‘anything’ to them because he was a star.
Bush says he wishes he’d changed the subject but that his relative inexperience at the time and the brightness of Trump’s celebrity stopped him.
Describing his own personality at the time as ‘almost sycophantic’, Bush said: ‘It was my first year as co-host of Access Hollywood, and I was an insecure person, a bit of a pleaser, wanting celebrities to like me and fit in. There is an expression, “Meet them where they are for each person.” For Ben Affleck, it’s Boston sports. But I went way too far in my desire to keep this No. 1 star happy.’
The host’s youngest daughter Lillie (left) vowed never to watch the tape while his oldest daughter, Josie (right) was instinctively protective of him
The pair had spent significant time together before the hot-mic comments, he said, and the conversation was normally about ‘golf, gossip or women.’
He said he was nervous that Trump would be able to have him fired at any moment, a fear which quietened his better judgement when they were on the bus where the comments were made.
Since being fired in October, Bush has been spending time doing yoga and bonding with his three daughters
‘Looking back on what was said on that bus, I wish I had changed the topic. I wish I had said: “Does anyone want water?” or “It looks like it’s gonna rain.” He liked TV and competition. I could’ve said, “Can you believe the ratings on whatever?” I didn’t have the strength of character to do it.’
Since losing his job in October, the 45-year-old host has taken up yoga and immersed himself in retreats in Napa.
He claims he wanted to return to the airwaves immediately after the tape emerged but that the time off was necessary.
Now, he is ready for a comeback and claims that the scandal has done wonders for his grasp of the job and industry.
‘Having been in the job as long as I have, I developed a fairly thick skin. My skin is definitely thicker now, and my heart is a little softer underneath it. But I will say I think everybody should have the opportunity to apologize.
‘I plan to return to the job that I love, which is television, communicating, interviewing people. I have changed in a way that I think will make me better at my job. I believe there will be more people like me in crisis. And with social media, a flame becomes a bonfire quickly.
‘So I will be picking up my pen and writing them and calling them on the phone, and I will pursue these interviews and these moments with these people. And through what I’ve learned and where I’ve been, I will tell them, “You have empathetic ears in me.”
While bosses didn’t give him a chance to apologize, Bush’s NBC on-screen colleagues including Tamron Hall, Hoda Kotb, Kathie Lee Gifford, Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie and Al Roker got in touch to offer him their support.
He has been in touch with Nancy O’Dell, whose appearance sparked the conversation with Trump, but he chose not to reveal details of their conversation.