NEW YORK — Billy Bush broke his silence Sunday night about the infamous Donald Trump “Access Hollywood” tape that had Trump making vulgar comments about women, and eventually led to Bush losing his job on “Today.”
“Looking back on what was said on that bus, I wish I had changed the topic,” Bush told The Hollywood Reporter. “[Trump] liked TV and competition. I could’ve said, ‘Can you believe the ratings on whatever?’ I didn’t have the strength of character to do it.”
In an expansive interview that was released on Sunday, Bush detailed his role in a bombshell 2005 tape of Trump making lewd and sexually aggressive remarks about women in an off-camera conversation with Bush for a segment on “Access Hollywood.”
The footage, which was released by the Washington Post in October, caused a firestorm around then-candidate Trump leading him to make a statement where he called the conversation, “locker room banter.”
A point with which Bush disagreed.
“No. I’m in a lot of locker rooms,” Bush said. “No, that is not the type of conversation that goes on or that I’ve participated in.”
Bush revealed that he had not known that the tape was going to go public beforehand, but knew about its existence for 11 years.
“I remember the day,” he said.
Following the tape’s release, backlash also surrounded Bush, which ultimately led to the “Today” show host losing his job at the NBC morning show.
Bush told the magazine that the “irony is glaring” that he was fired over the tape while Trump went on to become president. He also thought that he would be able to work through it and address the situation.
“I put together an apology right away… I told people that I was ashamed and embarrassed. And I was. So in the beginning, I thought, ‘OK, we’ll go and own up to this moment,'” Bush said. “Then I got home, and it started to become apparent that [I] would not be returning [to “Today”]. It hurt a lot, and I fell apart.”
Bush said that his “Today” colleagues like Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, and others reached out to him since the controversy. He also said that he reached out to his “Access Hollywood” co-host, Nancy O’Dell, who was described in crass terms on the tape. (Bush, however, would not say if O’Dell had responded.)
Bush, who is married and has three daughters, dealt with the fallout from the tape by going to a retreat over the holidays, using meditation, and even walking on hot coals with motivational speaker, Tony Robbins.
After being out of the public eye for months, the former host is now planning his comeback to television.
“There’s a process that needs to take place because you just can’t come back; it has to have changed you in some way,” Bush said. “But I plan to return to the job that I love, which is television, communicating, interviewing people.”