NBC News and Billy Bush officially parted ways late Monday, ending his short “Today” tenure, which began to unravel after the posting of an 11-year-old “Access Hollywood” open mic outtake in which Donald Trump bragged about groping women.
In a brief statement, NBC said, “While he was a new member of the TODAY team, he was a valued colleague and longtime member of the broader NBC family. We wish him success as he goes forward.”
“I am deeply grateful for the conversations I’ve had with my daughters, and for all of the support from family, friends and colleagues. I look forward to what lies ahead,” Bush said in a statement.
The “Access Hollywood” outtake — which had been recorded without Trump’s knowledge and first appeared on The Washington Post’s website on Oct. 7 — immediately plunged the Trump campaign into chaos.
But Bush’s career at “Today” — which he had recently joined as 9 a.m. co-host — was suddenly imperiled, too. Within days, he was suspended by NBC, “pending further review,” which many industry observers took to be network-speak for a termination notice.
On the tape, Bush was heard laughing at Trump’s boasts, then describing “Days of Our Lives” actress Arianne Zucker “hot as ” while suggesting that she hug “Apprentice” host Trump, who had just disembarked from a bus.
Bush immediately apologized in a statement, saying “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.”
A cousin of former President George W. Bush – Billy Bush’s father Jonathan is a younger brother of George H.W. Bush — Billy Bush joined “Today’s” third hour in September after a decade-long run at “Access.” While he was not necessarily considered heir apparent to Matt Lauer, the 9 a.m. edition of “Today” is considered a show where talent is groomed, either for an expanded role at “Today” or elsewhere at NBC.