NEW YORK — NBC on Sunday suspended “Today” show personality Billy Bush indefinitely after he was caught on a videotape from 2005 in a crude conversation about women with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“Today” Executive Producer Noah Oppenheim said in a memo Sunday that “there is simply no excuse for Billy’s language and behavior on that tape.” Bush, who hosts the third hour of the “Today” show, has been suspended “pending further review of the matter,” Oppenheim said.
NBC announced its decision two days after the videotape from the “Access Hollywood” archives surfaced. Bush was a host for that show in 2005, and he was taped in a hot-mic discussion with Trump when the future presidential nominee was on a Hollywood set to make an appearance on a soap opera.
On the tape, Trump brags about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women who were not his wife. Bush joins in, laughing at some of Trump’s comments and later encouraging an actress to hug Trump.
Bush, 44, has been brutalized on his own Facebook page since the tape surfaced. Hundreds of hostile comments were attached to Bush’s last posting Friday — of him distributing a plate of bacon to “Today” viewers outside of the show’s studio. “You are sickening!” one woman wrote, in a comment that nearly 5,000 had “liked” through Sunday afternoon.
Angering women viewers of a show as important to NBC’s bottom line as “Today” is no small matter. Many viewers upset by 2012’s messy dumping of Ann Curry as “Today” host took it out on colleague Matt Lauer; the show’s ratings still haven’t recovered. Women make up the majority of “Today” viewers, particularly in the last two hours.
Bush has only been at “Today” for two months, where he’s had a rocky start. He was the reporter to whom American swimmer Ryan Lochte lied about being robbed at the Olympics. When Bush later tried to defend Lochte on “Today,” he was dressed down by colleague Al Roker.
The “Access Hollywood” tape was an embarrassment on multiple levels for NBC News. The news division for days had been aware of the tape from the NBC-owned entertainment show, but was scooped by The Washington Post on Friday when the newspaper was tipped off about its existence and got a story out within hours.
Bush issued a statement Friday apologizing for his actions.
The tape showed Bush and Trump speaking as the Republican was about to appear on the daytime drama “Days of Our Lives.” From the bus they had ridden to the set, Bush pointed out to Trump an actress, Arianne Zucker, who was there to greet them.
Bush called the actress “hot,” adding an expletive.
“I’ve gotta use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump said. “You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful … I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
“Grab them by the p—-. You can do anything,” Trump added.
After getting off the bus, Bush asks the actress to hug Trump, then adds, “How about a little hug for the Bushy?”
The married father of three is the nephew of former President George H.W. Bush.
David Bauder, Associated Press