Reporting about Billy Bush and a Today exit has moved from If-dom to When-land.
Talks are ongoing and an announcement could come within days, sources report, at which it is expected NBC News will be saying so-long to Bush, after he was heard on tape having a lewd conversation with Donald Trump about women, including Bush’s then-Access Hollywood colleague Nancy O’Dell.
Such an announcement would end Bush’s brief tenure as host of Today‘s 9 AM hour, where he’d replaced Willie Geist because he had all those celebrity connections from his long run as the Peck’s Bad Boy host of NBC’s Access Hollywood.
Bush’s prospects for survival at Today dimmed considerably when SVP Noah Oppenheim announced he was suspended, effective immediately, because “There is simply no excuse for Billy’s language and behavior on that tape.”
Bush had expected to be able to apologize on air this past Monday, having already released a statement about being “embarrassed and ashamed,” hours after the Washington Post released the 2005 video of the conversation Bush had with Trump as they arrived at the set of an NBC soap. Access Hollywood was doing a segment about Trump’s cameo on the soap opera.
Bush is said to be distraught, and his camp outraged at the treatment, after 15 years with NBC. As they see it, their star is being punished for something that happened 11 years back, and for which he apologized. Then there are the comparisons to Brian Williams, who was caught engaging in creative moldings of the rough clay of truth on NBC’s evening newscast in early 2015, and yet survived at NBC News after a six-month purgatory.
Bush’s job at Today was to deliver to the 9 AM hour an audience that is 60% female. That became considerably more challenging as of Friday, when millions of people began watching an endless loop of Bush cheering on Trump as the real estate developer boasted he’s so famous he can kiss women and grab their genitalia with impunity.
On the tape that took over TV news networks that night, Bush was heard giggling when Trump said of Bush’s co-host O’Dell that he “moved on her like a bitch” and then mocked her physical appearance. After that exchange, Bush was heard drawing Trump’s attention to the “hot as shit” NBC soap actress waiting to greet them, congratulating Trump that he has “scored,” and then encouraging the actress to hug Trump.
And, if there is any question as to what Bush was encouraging on that tape, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, speaking to reporters accompanying POTUS on Air Force One today, put it on the record that Obama found the Bush-Trump conversation “repugnant” and that the behavior Trump described to Bush “constituted sexual assault.”