Billy Bush, the co-host of the third hour of the Today show, has been suspended from the program.
“NBC has decided to suspend Billy, pending further review of this matter,” writes NBC News SVP and Today show head Noah Oppenheim in a note to staffers. “Let me be clear — there is simply no excuse for Billy’s language and behavior on that tape,” Oppenheim writes.
During the taping of an Access Hollywood segment in 2005, Bush and Donald Trump were engaged in a crude discussion about Nancy O’Dell in particular, and women in general. Despite a break in taping the segment, Bush and Trump were still wearing microphones and being recorded. “I just start kissing them,” Trump says about his attraction to women. “It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it.”
“Whatever you want,” says Bush. “Grab ’em by the pussy,” Trump replies. “You can do anything.”
Late Friday afternoon, NBC said there was no talk of a suspension. But just as there has been intense heat on Trump, there has been significant criticism of Bush, too.
Bush did release this statement Friday evening: “Obviously I’m embarrassed and ashamed. It’s no excuse, but this happened eleven years ago – I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along. I’m very sorry.”
In another odd twist, the New York Times phoned Bush’s NBC News phone, and got this message, apparently recorded by an assistant: “You’ve reached Billy Bush’s office. He’s busy making America great again.”
Here is Oppenheim’s note:
Dear TODAY Family —
I know we’ve all been deeply troubled by the revelations of the past 48 hours.
Let me be clear — there is simply no excuse for Billy’s language and behavior on that tape. NBC has decided to suspend Billy, pending further review of this matter.
If any of you have any questions or concerns please reach out to me directly, anytime day or night.