In the carefully worded statement, Oppenheim called Bush “a valued colleague and longtime member of the broader NBC family” adding that they wish him success as he goes forward.
In a separate statement, Bush said he was “deeply grateful for the conversations I’ve had with my daughters, and for all of the support from family, friends and colleagues” adding that he is looking “forward to what lies ahead.”
With the announcement, NBC News has said so long to Bush, ridding itself of the Today show anchor heard round the TV news landscape giggling his way through a lewd conversation with Donald Trump about women, including Bush’s then-Access Hollywood co-host Nancy O’Dell.
The news division is said to have paid handsomely to extricate itself from the storyline in which its recently hired Today show host sets up a hug between the Apprentice star and an NBC-employed actress the two men had pronounced “hot as shit,” immediately after Trump’s bragged about being so famous he can grope attractive women with impunity.
Hours before the statements of Oppenheim and Bush were issued, Melania Trump taped an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper to air tonight, in which she blamed Bush for having “egged on” her husband to make those taped boasts. Melania Trump also said the release of the tape on the eve of the second presidential debate is part of a conspiracy between the media and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Bush’s lawyer, hotshot litigator Marshall Grossman swatted down a report late last week that his client had agreed to take $10M to cash him out of his contract, insisting no such deal had been reached. About half that payout is more accurate, sources say.
The announcement ended Bush’s brief tenure at Today, having been announced in May to replace Willie Geist as host of the 9 AM hour because Bush had all those celebrity connections from his long run as the Peck’s Bad Boy host of NBC’s Access Hollywood.
Bush had been the hot new hire at Today until 10 days ago when the Washington Post released the 2005 caught-on-hot-mic tape that sent the GOP candidate’s campaign, and Bush’s career, into crisis mode.
But it was thought Bush had dodged a bullet and he had expected to be able to apologize on air a week ago today, having already released a statement about being “embarrassed and ashamed.” But his prospects for survival dimmed considerably two days after the tape’s release, when Oppenheim, who’d had hired Jeb Bush’s cousin in May, raving about his boundless energy, great interviewing style and deep knowledge of pop culture, announced Bush was suspended, effective immediately, because “There is simply no excuse for Billy’s language and behavior on that tape.”
A series of NBC regulars has stepped in for Bush, including Al Roker, Carson Daly and, today and tomorrow, Harry Connick, Jr. star of NBCU TV Distribution’s new daytime talk show.
Exits are getting pretty pricey for NBC News. Among its bigger-ticket ousters: Today show veteran Ann Curry was paid $10 million to leave the program. Another NBC News veteran, David Gregory received a $4 million severance package when he was booted as host of NBC’s Sunday Beltway show Meet The Press.
The length of Bush’s Today show tenure is more in keeping with that of Jamie Horowitz, who had been hired to oversee all four hours of Today, only to be shown the door with a $3M payout, even before his official start date, after a disastrous pre-start-date tour of the troops.