"That he didn't fight for me is so deeply hurtful because I've known him for absolutely ever," Billy Bush says

Four years ago, Billy Bush's life changed forever.

In October 2016, Bush was abruptly fired from the Today show after a 2005 videotape was leaked to The Washington Post, in which then-Apprentice host Donald Trump bragged to Bush about groping women — lewd comments that Bush was recorded laughing at.

Although the hot microphone moment was recorded 15 years ago — when Bush was 33 and working for Access Hollywood — and knowing what he does now, he doesn't think he could have done anything other than not laugh, or pivot the conversation if he could go back in time.

“I’m not going to give [you] a pandering answer,” Bush, 48, tells Men's Health in the November 2020 issue. “I’m sorry. I can’t.”

At the time of his firing from NBC, Bush had been working for the morning show for about two months and had covered the 2016 Olympics that summer, when he traveled to Brazil with colleagues Hoda Kotb, Al Roker and Matt Lauer.

billy bush and matt lauer
Credit: getty images (2)

While Bush thought he had Lauer's support to remain on the morning show amid the scandal, he was "deeply" hurt that the former Today anchor "didn't fight" for him.

“That he didn’t fight for me is so deeply hurtful because I’ve known him for absolutely ever," Bush tells the outlet. (Lauer declined to comment to Men's Health.)

Billy Bush mens health
Billy Bush
| Credit: Celeste Sloman

Bush's dismissal from Today came just over a year before Lauer was fired in November 2017 for alleged sexually inappropriate behavior.

But although Bush reportedly had a complicated relationship with Lauer during their time together at Today, he said he took no joy in the news.

“People texted and called me making comments like he got what he deserved,” Bush told PEOPLE in January 2018. “But there is no joy in the demise of others … no matter who it is.”

After Bush was fired, he admitted 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 said. “Many months later, he called me and I addressed it. He assured me that he [fought for me] in private. I accepted it.”

Following his dismissal from Today, Bush admitted to his brother, Jonathan Bush, that he was deeply struggling.

"I’m paralyzed. I can’t get off my couch. I can’t stop crying," Bush tells Men's Health about what he told his older sibling. "I can’t stop thinking terrible thoughts of what I want to do to myself if I didn’t have children. . . . Help."

Nearly two years later, Bush's wife of 21 years, Sydney Davis — with whom he shares daughters Josie, 21, Mary, 19, and Lillie, 15 — filed for divorce. (It was finalized in September 2019.)

“I’m not just some untouched little sheltered, happy-go-lucky, ‘Jeez, everything good happens to this guy’ [person],” Bush tells the publication. “It makes you real."

Billy Bush with ex-wife Sydney Davis and their daughters
| Credit: Billy Bush with his ex-wife and daughters

He also realizes "that life isn’t fair."

"Everybody has some kind of f---ed-up s---. And if you don’t know that, and if you don’t know how to handle that, process that, get through that, then you haven’t fully gotten to where you need to be. I’m afraid that event was important for my development as a broadcaster, as a journalist, as a man, as a person. I need-ed to have my ass handed to me," he says.

While he recognized the devastating losses in his life, Bush did not wallow in despair. Instead, he found comfort in self-reflection and in the renewal of his faith.

“I have done so much self-help work,” Bush, whose daily routine included a Bible reading, scripture and a daily stoic, told PEOPLE.

Bush, who joined Fox's Extra as host in 2019,  also took ownership of his role in the controversy.

“There is a term for what I did,” said Bush. “It’s called bystander abuse. It says by not doing anything you are endorsing the moment. I have to live with that.”