The leaked Access Hollywood tape of Donald Trump bragging to Billy Bush about "grabbing [women] by the pussy" was a stomach-turning October surprise like no other. Many thought it finally signaled the moment that his chances for the presidency had become nonexistent. We were, of course, proven wrong on November 8 — but the Today show promptly fired Bush upon the tape's release. Seven months later, Bush has broken his silence about the Access Hollywood tape.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Bush says that he “would have welcomed addressing the [Today] audience” about the tape but he was fired before he had the chance to do so. He's watched the tape three times — once several days before the news broke in October, and twice in preparation for his first interview about the subject. Bush claims that, every single time he watched the tape, he felt "totally and completely gutted."
He also addressed what he could have done differently. Rather than laughing along as Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, Bush admits it would have been quite easy to change the subject.
"Looking back upon what was said on that bus, I wish I had changed the topic. [Trump] liked TV and competition. I could've said, 'Can you believe the ratings on whatever?' But I didn't have the strength of character to do it," Bush said.
Bush's family and friends contend that he was treated unfairly, stating that the other person on the tape now holds the highest office in the land. It's certainly distressing (to say the least) that a morning talk show has higher standards than millions of voters. But it doesn't erase the fact that this behavior should never be normalized — even if Trump currently occupies the White House. Bush's accountability shouldn't go out the window simply because Trump was elected president.
But, for his part, Bush himself accepts Today's decision. "I am not grateful for the moment," he says. "But I'm grateful for what I've gotten out of it. I'm grateful that it hit me all the way to my core."