Billy Bush Says ‘Everybody’ at NBC Knew About the Donald Trump Access Hollywood Tape

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VIDEO FRAME GRAB: In this 2005 frame from video, Donald Trump p

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When the now-infamous 2005 Access Hollywood tape was leaked in October 2016, it could have spelled the end of Donald Trump’s unlikely presidential campaign. Now, of course, we know better—Trump’s the guy who is constantly barraged with rape accusations to no actual effect. But the emergence of the tape did temporarily sideline a career—that of then-Today show host Billy Bush. Now, poised to make his return to television as the host of Fox’s Extra Extra, he’s talking about that the tape that cost him his job.

Bush revealed that “everybody” at NBC knew of the tape before it was released. “And I was comfortable that it wasn’t going to be weaponized,” he told CBS’s Gayle King in an interview that will air in full Tuesday. Instead, Bush lost his job at Today, though he left with millions in severance pay. Meanwhile Trump went onto win the presidency. “I got taken out, but I wasn’t the target,” he said in the new interview.

But Bush suggested that he found something of a silver lining in the role the tape had in kickstarting the Me Too movement. “It was a very hot, emotional time and maybe that helped trigger it,” he said. “I think that’s a good thing.”

The tape was recorded as Bush reported a segment on Trump’s cameo appearance on the soap opera Days of Our Lives. Though Trump openly admitted to sexually assaulting women, grabbing them “by the pussy” and because “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Bush was also caught on tape making less-than-respectful remarks. “Sheesh, your girl’s hot as shit,” he said of Days of Our Lives actress Arianne Zucker, who was waiting to greet the pair on set. Later, he asked Zucker for “a little hug for the Donald” and for a hug “for the Bushy,” just moments after the two men had been discussing their attraction to Zucker’s physique.

“It was my first year as the co-host of the show,” said Bush of his remarks. “You know you want people to like you, and you’re a little eager.”

“With Mr. Trump’s outsized viewership back in 2005, everybody from Billy Bush on up to the top brass on the 52nd floor had to stroke the ego of the big cash cow along the way to higher earnings,” wrote Bush in an op-ed for The New York Times in 2017. “None of us were guilty of knowingly enabling our future president. But all of us were guilty of sacrificing a bit of ourselves in the name of success.”

“Looking back upon what was said on that bus, I wish I had changed the topic,” Bush told The Hollywood Reporter that same year. But I didn’t have the strength of character to do it.”

Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.