“Obviously I’m embarrassed and ashamed. It’s no excuse, but this happened eleven years ago,” NBC News Today show co-host Billy Bush says of his caught-on-hot-microphone conversation with now-GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump about groping women. “I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along. I’m very sorry,” Bush added in a statement sent out this evening.
Meanwhile, Access Hollywood, where Bush was working at the time of the incident, covered the story tonight, anchored by former Today show co-host Natalie Morales. Bush’s remarks were downplayed in that report, while it was revealed that the woman with whom Trump says in the tape he tried to have sex, but failed, was Nancy O’Dell, who joined Entertainment Tonight in 2011.
NBC News has not responded to a request for comment about Bush’s immediate or long-term future with Today since he became a figure in what has become a big story about one of the presidential candidates. Since WaPo published the tape, Bush has taken a beating in social media, and his Twitter account has been deleted, as questions about his future with the news division abound.
This incident marks the third Bush-related headache for NBC News, and he only joined the news division in May. Bush was named to host, and boost ratings, on the morning show’s weakest-rated 9 AM hour.
In August, Bush traveled to Rio and landed the first interview with Ryan Lochte in which the U.S. Olympic swimmer told Bush he’d been pulled over and robbed by a man who had a gun pointed at his head.
But, when Lochte’s story began leaking air, Today anchor-in-chief Matt Lauer took over the Lochte interviewing, and Bush was pushed aside, which was not seen as a vote of confidence in the new-ish hire.
Next, Bush got into an on-air verbal kerfuffle with Today‘s Al Roker as to how made-up had been Lochte’s initial account to Bush. Bush argued that the swimmer made up some details, while Roker insisted — correctly as it turns out — that there had been no pulling over of the vehicle in which Lochte was riding, no gun to the head, no robbery.