“It was a bad moment. And I was in it. But one moment doesn’t define your life," Billy Bush says of the leaked tape (filmed in 2005) that nearly derailed his career
It’s been two-and-a-half years since a leaked tape (filmed in 2005) nearly derailed his career, but now Billy Bush is back on television with a new hosting gig — and opening up about how he’s changed.
“We all have to be able to evolve as we grow,” Bush, 47, tells PEOPLE. “The guy that left the scene in 2016 was already a changed person [since 2005], but I had the opportunity to grow up a little bit. Facing adversity in some way is good. And I feel I’ll be better at my job than I ever was. This is my next step.”
This fall, the veteran TV personality will host Extra Extra, a new iteration of the current syndicated entertainment show, featuring a modernized set and in-depth look at topics including pop culture, sports and politics. (The current version of Extra, hosted by Mario Lopez, will continue its run through the season.)
“The entertainment news genre needs an overhaul,” says Bush of the inspiration for the fresh take. “The Extra you’ve seen before is getting a major facelift.”
And since his last regular TV gig, Bush says he’s changed as well.
In 2016, he was in his first year as co-host on the Today show when the tape, which featured Bush laughing as a then-Apprentice star Donald Trump bragged about groping women, surfaced. Bush was promptly fired, left unsure about what to do next.
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“I fell completely apart,” says Bush. “I’ve been through resentment and anger and being inconsolable. But then I realized I had an opportunity to put one foot in front of the other and get going.”
Subsequently, Bush used the forced hiatus as a chance to self-reflect.
“I might have been a little too into my own world before,” he says. “And I don’t care about that as much anymore. And it’s made me slow down. I was terrible at being alone. And I’ve learned to sit with myself.”
As far as the tape, “I own the moment,” he says. “It was a bad moment. And I was in it. But one moment doesn’t define your life.”
Ultimately, despite the painful moments, Bush says he’s grateful for the experience — and the lessons.
“A good wallop on the side of the head makes you, changes you,” says Bush, “and I’m a better version of the man I was.”
Extra Extra premieres Sept. 9 (check local listings).