"There is no joy in the demise of others … no matter who it is," Billy Bush tells PEOPLE about Matt Lauer's firing from the Today show
Matt Lauer was fired from the Today show for alleged sexually inappropriate behavior just 14 months after Billy Bush’s dismissal amidst the Donald Trump scandal. But although Bush reportedly had a complicated relationship with Lauer during their time together at Today, he says he took no joy in the news.
“People texted and called me making comments like he got what he deserved,” says Bush, who was fired from Today in October 2016 after a leaked tape from 2005 revealed the then Access Hollywood host laughing as Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women. “But there is no joy in the demise of others … no matter who it is.”
Bush, 46, and Lauer, 60, had a complicated history at Today. Just two months prior to the Trump scandal, Bush was widely criticized for his Ryan Lochte interview in which the swimmer fabricated a story about being robbed at gunpoint during the Rio Olympics. The ensuing scandal reportedly caused tension between the show’s frontman Lauer, and Bush, who had been seen as a rising star, and was an embarrassment to the network.
After Bush was fired, he admits he was upset at the notion that his former colleague and arguably one of NBC’s biggest voices, might not have stepped in on his behalf.
“In one of my resolute moments, I said if I ever speak to him, I’m going to tell him that I was let down,” Bush says. “Many months later, he called me and I addressed it. He assured me that he [fought for me] in private. I accepted it.”
And then came Lauer’s own abrupt downfall on Nov. 30, when a woman came forward to NBC with allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior; in the days that followed, more women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment and even sexual assault against Lauer.
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“Maybe at one point there was part of me that [felt like] if someone else got [in trouble], I would be like, ‘Now who’s the bad guy?’ ” Bush admits. “But I took zero pleasure in it. And I’m grateful for that. Let those who transgressed be held accountable. I felt for the women involved and for his wife.”
Bush, who has spent the last year focused on self-reflection and a renewed dedication to his faith, says he also welcomed a recent overture from his former colleague. The request? Reading material. “He texted me and asked about some of the self-help books I’ve been reading,” says Bush. “I told him, ‘Start here.’ ”