According to published reports, lawyers for TV host Billy Bush are now negotiating his exit from the Today show, where Bush had only worked a few months. This ignominious departure comes, of course, after Bush was heard egging along a lewd Donald Trump in an 11 year old audio tape recorded when both men worked for NBC – Bush for Access Hollywood and Trump for The Apprentice.
In the first 36 hours after the audio went public, the network reportedly had no plans to suspend or punish Bush for his behavior. But some reason – perhaps the fierce social media backlash against Bush — evidently persuaded NBC to sign his writ of execution. Last Sunday afternoon an NBC executive released a memo saying: “There is simply no excuse for Billy’s language and behavior on that tape.”
This begs the question: why is Billy Bush being thrown under the bus, when Donald Trump – whose bad behavior was widely known at NBC – suffered no consequences for the more than a decade when he was one of NBC’s biggest stars?
Bush at the time of the 2005 taping was a relatively minor NBC entertainment host, interviewing a huge star (Trump), for a silly segment about an NBC daytime soap opera (Days of Our Lives). And as an NBC employee, Bush actually had a reasonable expectation of privacy behind the closed doors of that Access Hollywood bus. His job was to verbally fluff the more powerful star of a network they both worked for. Trump’s brand and name far outweighed that of Bush (Yes, even if his cousin and great uncle were both U.S. president).
"I don't know that it's so clear cut that he should lose his job."– Zucker on Billy Bush
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) October 14, 2016
Also, if you look at what Bush actually said on the tape (“Your girl’s hot as shit, in the purple!”) his crime seems to be less his words than that he didn’t dress down the far bigger star for his offensive remarks. Really?
Bush doesn’t appear to be taking the suspension lying down. He’s hired attorney Marshall Grossman (Erin Andrews and JK Rowling’s attorney) to represent him. Grossman argues to Entertainment tonight that “If Billy had been passive or responded ‘Shut the fuck up’ to Trump, Billy would have been out of a job the next day.”
Indeed, NBC seems to have almost willful amnesia about how closely Donald Trump, the alleged serial sexual harasser, was tied to their network. And how he clearly felt comfortable enough to say or do anything he wanted.
Following the appearance of the 2005 tape, several accusers have materialized with stories of Trump’s Apprentice days. One report in the Daily Beast has unnamed Apprentice staffers saying Trump called hearing impaired contestant and Oscar winner Marlee Matlin “retarded” several times. Trump reportedly referred to Celebrity Apprentice’s Lil Jon as an “Uncle Tom” as well as describing Khloe Kardashian as a “piglet”. Just this past Friday, a former Apprentice contestant appearing with attorney Gloria Allred accused Trump of unwanted advances.
And yet NBC during all those years apparently turned a blind eye. NBC was accountable for Donald Trump’s behavior much in the same way a university is for the conduct of its football coach –- and yet NBC did nothing. The network even felt comfortable enough with Trump this year to invite him back to host Saturday Night Live. The only NBC employee to suffer any consequences so far for Trump’s behavior? Billy Bush.
NBC is now tarring Bush to the press, telling the New York Post that during the Rio Olympics in August, Bush had been boasting to NBC colleagues about the 2005 “tape of Trump being a real dog”. These anonymous NBC sources suggested Bush’s loose lips in Rio could actually be “immoral”, giving NBC reason to fire him for cause (and save money by not having to pay out his contract):
“Billy was bragging about the tape to other NBC staff while in Rio. If he knew about the tape, and remembered the full extent of such an explosive conversation with a presidential candidate and didn’t disclose that to NBC News, that is a very, very serious problem,” the insider said, adding it could violate the “morality clause” in his contract.
Again, really? NBC executives, anxious to smear Bush, are actually admitting that NBC staff knew about the audio but weren’t exactly rushing to broadcast it. And invoke a “morality clause” against Bush? While seemingly turning their backs on Trump for years while he made the network money, hand over tiny little fist?
If NBC wasn’t willing to enforce a morality clause against Donald Trump for what may be years of bad behavior, how good of a case do they have for enforcing one against Bush for one recorded incident in which Bush was simply fluffing a huge NBC star? NBC wants people to believe they have suddenly found their conscience while by all looks, the network was actually for years fostering a culture of intimidation against women.
NBC must address the climate they encouraged, fostered and promoted, not at the hands of Billy Bush, but at the hands of Donald Trump. And what about Billy Bush, his career in ruins? Yes he’s probably a cocky frat boy, yes he’s already rich and yes he’s American royalty — but NBC doesn’t just owe him an eight-figure check. They owe him an apology.
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