In the year since he was fired by NBC for his appearance in the infamous Access Hollywood video with Donald Trump, Billy Bush has been on a forgiveness tour. In December, Bush wrote an op-ed for The New York Times refuting Trump’s denials that he ever said "grab them by the pussy." Shortly after, he sat down for his first TV interview with Stephen Colbert and showed support for Trump’s accusers. But, when Bush appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher, one person was tired of hearing him talk and just wanted him to listen.
Bill Maher’s guest, former White House advisor under President Barack Obama Nayyera Haq, told Bush how to be a male ally and it’s a lesson to other men who want to know how they can help. According to her, it’s really very simple, you just have to be better.
Bush spent his interview with Maher talking about how “shitty” it was to be fired for chuckling along with Trump’s comments about grabbing women’s genitals, but admitted that given the chance to change the past, “I probably would have just changed the topic.” Bush didn’t, he says now, because it would’ve made his bosses mad. “I’d have had to explain how I lost Trump, the big fish,” he said.
Despite not pushing back against Trump’s “locker room talk,” Bush said he didn’t offer Trump a Tic Tac after he said he likes to pop one of the breath mints before forcing women to kiss him. “Thirteen years ago I kissed a lot of ass,” Bush said, “but that’s where I drew the line.”
Maher seemed willing to let Bush have a pass, giving him a round of applause, but Haq wasn’t having it. (Seriously, just look at the disgusted look she gives when the camera pans to the panel.) She didn’t think Bush keeping his Tic Tacs to himself was quite so praiseworthy and let the two men know it.
Maybe Bush didn’t offer Trump a mint before meeting Arianne Zucker, but Haq pointed out that he wasn’t protecting his female colleague either. He was leaving Zucker blindsided, “coming in afterwards and not knowing everything said in the room before her. It affirms the suspicion we’ve always had that our men in the workplace won’t respect us the same way,” she said.
For Haq, that video showed how little men respected women not just as people, but as colleagues. Now, Bush, like many men before him, implied being “a father to daughters” is a sign that he respects women, but Haq thought there was one way he could start really showing that.
“And I think the easiest, honestly, solution to that,” she said, “is for when people are in a room where everybody looks like you and somebody says something racist or sexist to have that social courage to say, ‘but that’s not okay.’”
Haq calls this “social courage” because it’s not easy to stand up against someone who is powerful and looks likes you when you don’t agree with them, but when you do it leads to big change for those who don’t look like you. This, Haq said, is “what every man can do on behalf of your daughters, your mothers, your friends, and your sisters.”
Using the words of Maya Angelou, Haq also offered Bush some advice: “when you knew better, you did better.” Bush spent a lot of his time on Maher’s show talking about how bad this experience was for him, but he made a choice and now he has to take responsibility for it. He needs to own the fact that he didn’t do better in this situation, that he didn’t stop Trump from saying those things, he laughed.
Maher believed that Bush was being unfairly punished for what he did, calling it a situation of a “bad thing happening to a good person” and now everyone wants him to “go away forever.” Haq had no sympathy explaining this is something that happens to women and minorities all the time. “I’m so glad you’re worried about going away,” she told Maher and Bush. “Welcome to the party.”
Twitter was quick to praise Haq for speaking up. “Thank you so much for saying this,” one person wrote. “Social courage versus moving with the like-minded herd. Yes, yes, yes.” Haq tweeted back, “It’s not easy to do because all the social cues in the moment are pulling you in the opposite direction.” Despite that though, she was still able to stand her ground and show support for the women affected by Trump’s words. It’s something Bush should take note of.
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