When an entire Wikipedia page is dedicated to your involvement in an election year scandal, you know you’re in trouble.
On October 17th, 2016, William Hall Bush—“Billy” to his friends and yoga classmates—was fired from his dream job as co-host of The Today Show after an audio recording (from 2005) of him chortling as Donald Trump said sexually explicit things about how women like to be “handled” was released.
This occurred roughly one month before one of the most contentious, surprising presidential elections in American history. The timing of the troubling tape’s release was no coincidence – it was meant to sink Donald Trump’s chances of winning. Instead, it sunk Billy Bush’s career.
But, according to the teaser for this exclusive interview with Billy Bush in The Hollywood Reporter, the embattled entertainment journalist is looking to un-sully his name one life coach session at a time.
Seven months after the infamous “grab them by the pussy” recording got Bush fired (and nearly toppled Trump’s White House run), the former ‘Today’ host goes public with what happened on that bus, the people who knew about the tape, how he broke the “awful” news to his daughters and his bold comeback move: “I plan to return to the job that I love.”
There is much to admire in this THR interview. Mr. Bush candidly admits that it was a “different, more immature man” that hundreds of millions people heard laughing at Trump’s coarse humor. He speaks sincerely of his love for his wife and their three daughters. He admits to seeking out therapy of various kinds to work on the emotional blind spots in his life and character.
Those are all good things. And, without a doubt, it takes some level of courage to even want to show your face after being so publicly humiliated (and linked with a politician so despised by your peers in the media and entertainment world). It’s not “storming the beaches of Iwo Jima” courage, but you get my point.
Nevertheless, any reader of this interview should have some concerns about how this interview was conducted and the way in which Billy Bush handled this first stop on what will undoubtedly be his “Return to Entertainment Journalism” tour.
First, let’s focus on the interview itself (and interviewers themselves). Conducted in Mr. Bush’s family’s swanky Upper East Side apartment, Billy was flanked by his lawyer and publicist during the entire conversation. Lacey Rose and Marisa Guthrie from Hollywood Reporter would have been crazy to turn down the chance to score an exclusive chat with Bush, but this wasn’t a congressional investigation into his involvement with drug cartels. This was basically a staged dog-and-pony-show so that someone who used to interview that week’s loser on The Bachelorette for a living could apologize for being in front of the wrong “hot” microphone at the wrong time (twelve years earlier).
Rose and Guthrie are relentless throughout the interview in their search for scathing critiques of President Trump.
You got fired, and the other guy on that tape became president. How does that make you feel?
Had you heard him speak like that about women before?
So is that seriously how Trump approaches women?
Much like you, Trump released a statement in which he said, “Anyone who knows me knows that those words don’t reflect who I am.” Is that true?
You clearly are remorseful. Do you think Trump regrets it?
I wonder if there was an agenda behind this line of questioning? And how in the world is Billy Bush supposed to know what Donald Trump regrets in his life?
Personal demons and shortcomings aside, why must we extract every ounce of apology and shame out of Billy Bush? He’s not a politician. He’s not your pastor, priest or rabbi. He’s not a school administrator. His job, at the time of the infamous chortle in question, was to kiss up to celebrities and get sound bites from them for Access Hollywood.
While no one can defend what Donald Trump said, we also do not need to hold Billy Bush’s head underwater until he promises to admit that he should have kicked Trump in the junk and performed (from memory) an empowering scene from The Vagina Monologues to teach the dastardly future-president a lesson on behalf of latter-day Hillary Clinton voters and feminists everywhere.
And here we come to the most disappointing aspect of this Hollywood Reporter piece: Billy Bush’s painfully apparent desire to be liked and “forgiven” by people who likely never liked him to begin with. No one deserves an apology from him. What he said to his wife and daughters ought to have remained between them. NBC should have backed their guy and told the world, “We won’t let Trump bring down our Billy Boy” (or something equally lame).
The fact that Billy Bush believes that the way back into Americans’ hearts was to open up about how much he enjoys yoga, female boxing instructors, and the mentoring advice of Oprah ought to tell us all we need to know about our culture.