Last week Kathy Griffin, this week Billy Bush: Real Time‘s rehab for post-Trump career slumps was open for business tonight, and HBO host Bill Maher gave the former Access Hollywood anchor and infamous bus giggler plenty of space for reflection.
But first thing’s first: No, Bush said, he did not give Donald Trump any breath-freshening Tic Tacs. “Thirteen years ago I kissed a lot of ass,” Bush said, “but that’s where I drew the line.”
Maher asked Bush what he’d have done differently on that hot-mic’d bus as the Apprentice kingpin boasted about grabbing women by the genitals.
“I probably would have just changed the topic,” Bush said, an answer that might score higher for honesty than for satisfying, put-the-creep-in-his-place retribution. Trump, Bush told Maher, was NBC’s “cash cow,” and a volatile one at that, and calling out his oafish behavior wouldn’t have gone down well with Bush’s bosses.
“I’d have had to explain how I lost Trump, the big fish,” Bush said.
Bush said watching Trump prosper and win even as he himself lost his career – when, after all, Trump was the grabber, and Bush just the snickerer – was, in Bush’s word, “shitty.”
“Chaos,” he said. “You’ve got order in your life and then all of a sudden you’ve got chaos.”
“You can’t control what happens,” Bush said. “You can only control how you react to it.” He said he took one of his daughters to Japan, has another trip planned with his middle daughter, and intends to donate the $850 he gets from Real Time to a church, Maher’s atheism notwithstanding.
As for insight into the presidential character, Bush said he has none other that what we all see and know. Once, when Bush caught Trump lying about Apprentice ratings, Trump explained (off camera), “Billy, look, you just tell them and they believe it. They just do.”
The other guests on tonight’s Real Time with Bill Maher seemed less inclined than Maher to forgive and forget. Nayyera Haq, a former senior official at the White House and State Department under Barack Obama, said the Trump-Bush bus conversation confirmed the worst of what women suspect about men in the workplace, and she made particular note of Bush’s failure to stand up to Trump.
“I’m calling it social courage for a reason,” she said.
Pete Dominick, comic and SiriusXM Radio host, told Bush – “with all due respect” – that “every single one of us has to stand up in those moments. That’s the only way it turns around. You could have, you should have, you didn’t and in the future I hope you will and I hope everybody that saw that and heard that tape knows that is unacceptable. You have to stand up to assholes everywhere all the time.”
Bush endured the going-over with considerably more grace than he showed on that bus, and noted that the incident was 13 years ago. “I grew into myself,” he told Dominick. “I became a different person. Not that I need to convince you.”