In 2016, shortly after an off-camera Access Hollywood conversation between then-coanchor Billy Bush and now-president Donald Trump surfaced, Bush left NBC. Now, a year later with Trump implying his voice on the infamous recording could have been faked, Bush just penned a pointed New York Times op-ed calling out the current POTUS.
"He said it. 'Grab 'em by the pussy,'" Bush starts the scathing commentary.
"Of course he said it," he continues. "And we laughed along, without a single doubt that this was hypothetical hot air from America's highest-rated bloviator. Along with Donald Trump and me, there were seven other guys present on the bus at the time, and every single one of us assumed we were listening to a crass standup act. He was performing. Surely, we thought, none of this was real."
Bush goes on describe in detail his horror upon hearing the stories of woman after woman — Natasha Stoynoff, Rachel Crooks, Jessica Leeds, Jill Harth, Kristin Anderson — coming forward with shocking allegations against Trump, which corroborated the Apprentice mogul's words on the bus.
Bush accuses Trump of "currently indulging in revisionist history," saying of Trump's suggestion the Access Hollywood recording is fake, "This has hit a raw nerve in me."
Explaining his complicity during the day in question, Bush admits he had his mind on the bottom line. "Was I acting out of self-interest? You bet I was. Was I alone? Far from it. With Mr. Trump's outsized viewership back in 2005, everybody from Billy Bush on up to the top brass on the 52nd floor had to stroke the ego of the big cash cow along the way to higher earnings."
In Bush's case, it worked. He reveals that due to his successful rapport with Trump, "NBC tripled my salary and paid for my moving van from New York to Los Angeles."
So while Bush doesn't cop to enabling Trump's sexual transgressions, he does confess that he and the others present that day were guilty of "sacrificing a bit our ourselves" to climb the corporate ladder.
Bush doubles down on his stance against Trump, pointing out that he raised concerns about Trump's candidacy early. His concerns, he says, were rooted in those off-air conversations with Trump, one of which Bush divulges for the first time in the op-ed.
"In the days, weeks and months to follow, I was highly critical of the idea of a Trump presidency. The man who once told me — ironically, in another off-camera conversation — after I called him out for inflating his ratings: 'People will believe you. You just tell them and they believe you,' was, I thought, not a good choice to lead our country," Bush says.
Bush ends the op-ed by reflecting on how, despite the last year's turmoil, he is heartened to see the hard conversations happening around the country regarding sexual harassment and assault. And at the end of the day, he feels as though his controversial role in the conversation has ultimately strengthened his character.
"I know that I don't need the accouterments of fame to know God and be happy," he writes. "After everything over the last year, I think I'm a better man and father to my three teenage daughters — far from perfect, but better."
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