Billy Bush is finally speaking out after his involvement in those leaked lewd tapes in October 2016 forced his career into a spectacular downward spiral, causing him to lose both his job and the respect of the public.
In the tapes, Donald Trump infamously bragged about sexually assaulting a married woman (later revealed to be Access Hollywood personality Nancy O’Dell) when she turned him down for sex. Trump made the comments and Bush laughed and agreed. Trump became the president; Bush became a pariah.
Bush has finally broken his silence about those tapes. He has been using the experience to reflect on his own behavior, rather than the insane unfairness in the way the fallout has affected him versus how it’s affected Trump. “I am not grateful for the moment,” he told the Hollywood Reporter in his first interview since the scandal hit last October. “But I’m grateful for what I’ve gotten out of it. I’m grateful that it hit me all the way to my core.”
He continued, “I thought that we would work through it and we would address people. I put together an apology right away, the one you saw; 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.’ Then I got home, and it started to become apparent that [I] would not be returning [to the Today show]. It hurt a lot, and I fell apart.”
One of the most striking and heartbreaking parts of Bush’s interview is when he described how his teenage daughter reacted. “My now 16-year-old daughter called me and she was in tears. She was really upset,” he said. “I said, ‘Mary, it’s going to be OK. You know, don’t worry.’ And she said, ‘No, why were you laughing at the things that he was saying on that bus? Why were you playing along with that, Dad? It wasn’t funny.'” A teenage girl showing more wisdom than two grown men could at the time or have since: That’s the America we live in today.
O’Dell revealed that Bush apologized to her when she recently appeared on Entertainment Tonight. “Billy reached out to me just about three weeks ago by email. He wrote a really nice apology, which I appreciated very much,” she said. “He and I worked together for so many years, for a long time, and I only wish him the best moving forward.”
One thing is clear: Neither Bush nor Trump deserves our forgiveness for taking part in a conversation that was the pure embodiment of rape culture. But Bush, at the very least, is attempting to reflect on his actions, and, in witnessing his daughter’s reaction, has seen firsthand how damaging they were to women. Trump brushed them off as “locker room talk” and moved on. We must work harder to hold him accountable.
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