Billy Bush Checked Into 'Soul-Searching Retreat' After Trump Tape, Says Matt Lauer Defended Him
Billy Bush made his first late night appearance since his lewd conversation with Donald Trump was leaked in fall 2016
On Monday evening, the former Today show anchor, 46, sat down with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show, where he discussed the infamous tape — which resulted in him being let go from his NBC hosting post — and explained why he wrote his New York Times op-ed published Sunday, in which he confirmed that Trump made the comments despite the president recently claiming that the infamous tape was fabricated.
“Last week, [Trump] for some reason came out with, ‘That’s not my voice on the tape.’ Like I said, you can’t say that. That is your voice, I was there, you were there, that’s your voice on the tape,'” said Bush.
He continued: “So when he said this, it infuriated me on the personal front and then I ended up Googling and I read an article with all of these women’s accounts, because when that article first came out, it was 13 days after I had been fired, so I was in my own personal shock, fight or flight. And so I never really read it all the way. And as I read these, I said, ‘Twenty women don’t get together and say, ‘Hey, do you know what would be really fun? Let’s take down a powerful guy together. Haha!’ No, they don’t.’ ”
“And I said, ‘Okay, you’re reopening wounds on them too. Enough’s enough. Stop playing around with people’s lives!’ That upset me. So I wrote [the op-ed].”
During his Late Show appearance, Bush and Colbert also rewatched a portion of the Access Hollywood tape before the ousted NBC host explained the incident in his own words.
“The first time I ever heard it was three days before it leaked. It was a gut punch, it’s a gut punch now. It will always be,” Bush said. “At the time, it was 2005, and his ratings were through the roof and he was the big star of NBC. And I sort of equated what he was saying to some kind of crass stand-up act, like an Andrew Dice Clay performance. You kind of figure, ‘Well that’s not Dice when he’s home. He actually doesn’t do those things.’ ”
Adding, “If I had thought there was a man detailing a sexual assault strategy to me, I would’ve called the FBI, not just reported it to my executive producer. That was it for me. … Everybody sort of had to kiss the ring of the Donald because he was making so much money for NBC.”
When asked if he feels shame for his behavior in the footage, Bush told Colbert: “No question, I feel like I sacrificed, a little bit, of who I am in the moment.”
In addition, Bush said it’s “ironic” that he was the one to lose his job while Trump was elected to the country’s highest office.
“It’s unbelievable irony. The very day he was swearing in as the 45th president of the United States, I was checking in to this soul-searching retreat in St. Helena, California. Nine days off the grid, no phone, you had to check-in your phone,” Bush said of Jan. 20.
Bush did not detail the exact nature of the facility he attended.
“It was the beginning of me saying, ‘Alright get up. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Stop worrying of all these things, there’s life to live. Let’s go. Get better. Be a better man, be a better person,’ ” he recalled.
“I passed the television in the office when I was checking in and he’s got the hand up and I’m going into my little cabin to do the work. Tough. Irony,” Bush said.
WATCH: Billy Bush Suspended from ‘Today’ Following Release of Lewd Comments with Donald Trump
Colbert also noted how it’s been over a year since the release of the Access Hollywood tape with Trump and sexual assault allegations have only been rampant, even more so with the sexual misconduct claims against Bush’s former colleague Matt Lauer, who was fired from Today in late November.
“My boss, months later, said publicly we may have moved a little quickly,” Bush said about his own firing from Today and NBC. “[Matt and I] had a conversation about that. He told me that he went privately to the bosses … I said, ‘I appreciated it,’ and accepted it and thanked him.”
While he has tried to move on from the Trump tape, Bush revealed a regret he still holds on to.
“I would’ve liked the chance to address the audience that following Monday but it was right after the debate and the tape made it in time for the debate. So I didn’t get time. I would’ve liked to address the audience,” he told Colbert.
On the overall lesson he has learned following the tape, Bush urged viewers to support those coming forward against powerful men in their industry. “Women must be believed. We, kind of, have to find our way to have the dialogue,” he said.
“I’m worried that the dialogue isn’t going to be around. We get onto the next thing, we get on our phones and the next outrage comes. We have to continue that. I believe the bus ride was the tip of the iceberg,” Bush concluded.
When the tape first came to light in October 2016, Trump, 71, apologized for his language and called the conversation “locker room talk.” He denied all claims of sexual misconduct.
Trump made lewd comments about allegedly groping and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation with Bush that was caught on a hot microphone as the two prepared for a segment for the entertainment show.
The exchange took place as Trump and Bush were on board an Access Hollywood bus, arriving on the set of Days of Our Lives to tape a segment about a cameo Trump was filming for the soap opera. Listeners can hear Trump tell Bush, “And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p—-. You can do anything.”
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airs weeknights (11:35 p.m. ET) on CBS.