Back in October 2016, a video and audio recording of former Access Hollywood host Billy Bush and then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump showed both men speaking grossly about women at large and leering at actress Arianne Zucker. The tape's candid language—including Trump's assertions that "And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything" / "Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything"—inspired a new wave of feminist activism and iconography.
Alas, Trump went on to be elected president. But Bush was dropped from his gig as a Today show cohost, and has remained silent about the ordeal. Until now.
Bush is looking to mount a comeback in the media world, and as part of his penance, he spoke to the Hollywood Reporter about the Trump tape, his growth between 2005 (when the tape was filmed) and now; and what he thinks about President Trump.
Naturally, the fact that Bush is even able to envision a comeback of any kind is a testament to a certain amount of privilege. But Bush is convinced that he's now a better and more thoughtful man:
"I am not grateful for the moment. 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."
In between anecdotes from family members and industry friends, Bush muses about the tape's contents:
"Looking back upon what was said on that bus, I wish I had changed the topic. [Trump] liked TV and competition. I could've said, 'Can you believe the ratings on whatever?' But I didn't have the strength of character to do it."
He also expresses that he's learned his lesson since October:
"I've never been the type that the paparazzi would be interested in. So that early part was just chaos. But then things progressed, and when you have a big, traumatic event, you go through stages, and it led to acceptance and understanding. And then I found myself in a place of soul searching. And I developed a commitment to become a better, fuller man."
The tape dropped on a Friday, and Bush was fired before he had a chance to respond to the public on the Today show. If he'd been able to deliver any message, it would've been as such:
"I would have said, 'I am deeply embarrassed. I sit before you every morning, and I have on a different show [Access Hollywood Live] many mornings, and I hope you know the person you're looking at and have developed an opinion about is [the real me]. You aren't wrong about that. I am ashamed. Going forward, you can be sure that I will not participate in anything like that. And I will keep my eyes out and do what I can to stop it from happening'."
As for what he was thinking about Trump in that moment?
"I felt that, in that moment, he was being typically Donald, which is performing and shocking. Almost like Andrew Dice Clay, the stand-up comedian: Does he really do the things that he's saying or is that his act? And in Donald's case, I equated it that way. When he said what he said, I'd like to think if I had thought for a minute that there was a grown man detailing his sexual assault strategy to me, I'd have called the FBI."
Interesting. And of course, he is aware of the tape's effect on women and girls in particular. As he's married to a woman and has three daughters, Bush claims he's gained more insight into systemic sexual assault and violence against femme people:
"When a woman watches that tape—and this is what really hit me—they may be asking themselves, 'Is that what happens when I walk out of a room? When I walk out of a meeting, is that what they're saying about me? Are they sizing me up?' I can't live with that. If a moment like that arose again, I would shut it down quickly. I am in the women-raising business, exclusively. I have three daughters—Mary, Lillie, Josie—and I care very much about the world and the people they encounter."
Read the whole interview on the Hollywood Reporter.