"The irony is glaring about where Donald Trump ended up and where I ended up," says Bush

By Aili Nahas and Adam Carlson
May 09, 2019 10:00 AM
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For a moment in the fall of 2016, it seemed like both Billy Bush and Donald Trump would face consequences for the notorious 2005 tape of them on Access Hollywood.

The tape, filmed when Bush was starting his career, caught him laughing along as Trump, then on NBC’s The Apprentice, made lewd comments and bragged about groping women. After the recording surfaced in October 2016, Bush quickly lost his job co-hosting the Today show and retreated from the public eye after apologizing for what he had said.

Trump, too, initially received severe backlash in the final weeks of his presidential campaign, including a momentary cry by some conservatives for him to drop out of the race. But he stuck it out, making only a brief apology for the comments but then shrugging them off as men-will-be-men “locker room talk.”

In the end, Trump narrowly beat out Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College and was elected president. He has since been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual misconduct, including by former PEOPLE writer Natasha Stoynoff, all of which he adamantly denied.

“The irony is glaring about where Donald Trump ended up and where I ended up,” Bush, 47, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, reflecting on his new outlook on life and his return to TV.

Trump, Bush says, “has the No. 1 job in the world for the guy that did all the talking” on the Access Hollywood tape.

The 56th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Red Carpet
Credit: George Pimentel/WireImage)

• For more from Billy Bush’s new career move and time out of the spotlight, subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday.

Bush admits to grappling with a swirl of emotions in the wake of the tape’s release three years ago.

“Like anything major in people’s lives, you go through stages,” he says. “I’ve been through resentment, anger, inconsolable to ‘wait a minute, maybe I have an opportunity here to just put a foot in front of the other and get going.’ You realize nobody goes unscathed in life.”

billy bush
Billy Bush

“I own the moment,” Bush tells PEOPLE of his behavior around Trump in 2005. “It was a bad moment. I was in it. It’s not other people’s fault.”

In the fall, Bush will return to the genre that made him a household name as the managing editor and host of Extra Extra, a revitalized entertainment news show that will replace the syndicated program Extra. (The version with host Mario Lopez will end after the current season.)

“I don’t come back as someone who just went on a surfing trip,” Bush says.

He continues: “I’m a completely changed person for the better. Evolved. And I think we need to be able to evolve, and not just through the path that I had to take. We all have to be able to evolve as we grow.”

Extra Extra premieres Sept. 9 (check local listings).