During the first week of October 2016, reporters unearthed a 2005 audio clip of NBC “Today” host Billy Bush speaking with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
The audio was recorded en route to the set of the soap opera “Days of Our Lives.” It was leaked to the Washington Post, which published it on 8 October 2016, just days before the second of three presidential debates. On the tape, Bush — who worked with “Access Hollywood” at the time — can be heard snickering and encouraging Trump:
“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married,” Trump says. “Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”
At that point in the audio, Trump and Bush appear to notice Arianne Zucker, the actress who is waiting to escort them into the soap-opera set.
“Your girl’s hot as s—, in the purple,” says Bush, who’s now a co-host of NBC’s “Today” show.
“Whoa!” Trump says. “Whoa!”
The two then engage in a the segment’s most controversial exchange:
TRUMP: You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
BUSH: Whatever you want.
TRUMP: Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything.
After the two leave from the bus, Bush instructs Zucker to give Trump a hug, and she complies. He then tells her to give him a hug as well, which she does. As the three are walking to the set, Bush asks Zucker whether she would prefer to date himself or Trump.
A few days after the audio appeared, NBC announced that it had suspended Bush from his anchor duties. A memo sent to “Today” staffers from producer Noah Oppenheim was leaked to multiple news outlets:
Let me be clear: There is simply no excuse for Billy’s language and behavior on that tape. NBC has decided to suspend Billy pending further review of this matter.
Bush released a public statement apologizing for what he said:
Obviously I’m embarrassed and ashamed. It’s no excuse, but this happened 11 years ago — I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along.
It is not clear how long the suspension will last. NBC did not respond to a request for comment.