Had it derailed the Donald Trump train as it barreled down the tracks last fall, the Access Hollywood pussy tape might have wound up in history textbooks as the quintessential example of an October Surprise. But Trump won the presidency, just a few weeks after the leak of an old recording of himself and then-Access Hollywood host Billy Bush deliberating the finer points of grabbing women by their genitalia, and so the tape and Bush are mere footnotes on the Trump ascendancy.
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However, the leaked tape did derail Bush’s career. Bush released a short apology in October but was fired from the Today show days later, and he’s stayed otherwise quiet about the kerfuffle, until now. With his lawyer and publicist by his side, Bush gave a winding interview to The Hollywood Reporter to talk about the immediate aftermath of the tape’s release, what he’s been up to since, and the career move he’s making next.
His daughters expressed a range of reactions.
Bush has three daughters—Lillie, 12, Mary, 16, and Josie, 18—and he says each took the tape’s release differently. The most upset was Mary, then 15, who called in tears from boarding school and demanded an explanation. Lillie decided never to listen to it.
He wasn’t thrilled with how NBC handled his termination.
Bush had hoped he’d get the opportunity to apologize on the air, but he never got the chance. “In the beginning, I thought, ‘OK, we’ll go and own up to this moment.’ Then I got home, and it started to become apparent that [I] would not be returning [to Today],” Bush says. His firing reportedly came with a lengthy nondisclosure agreement, but he will say, “It hurt a lot, and I fell apart.”
He used Trump’s favorite topics in order to bond.
As a celebrity host, Bush says that he often sought common ground to develop a repartee with subjects. He gives the examples of talking Boston sports with Ben Affleck or chatting about his garden with Martha Stewart. With Trump, Bush says, “[T]he topics were usually golf, gossip or women. And boy, do I wish this was a golf day.” He admits now that his behavior around celebrities could be sycophantic: “I was an insecure person, a bit of a pleaser, wanting celebrities to like me and fit in.”
He experienced the stages of grief.
“When you have a big, traumatic event, you go through stages, and it led to acceptance and understanding,” Bush says. “And then I found myself in a place of soul searching. And I developed a commitment to become a better, fuller man.”
To recover, he hit a pillow with a baseball bat at a holistic retreat in Napa.
Bush attended The Hoffman Process, a weeklong retreat in which participants spend their waking hours considering their flaws. “At one point, you’re on your knees with a baseball bat and a pillow in front of you, and you are literally bashing these negative patterns that you’ve identified in your life,” he recalls. “One thing I learned at The Hoffman Process is that I’ve always relied on my charm and my quick wit and all that, but I’ve kept my depth in the shadows.”
He’s too busy meditating in the morning to watch Today.
Bush doesn’t torture himself by watching his old colleagues each morning. “I’ve been watching very little TV in the morning because I get up and meditate, and then I do yoga,” he says. “And I’ve been doing some boxing now, too, and it’s interesting; it’s 75 percent women in the gym. But I love it.”
His next TV gig might involve sports.
The Hollywood Reporter heavily hints throughout its cover story that Bush will soon be returning to television, mentioning that he’s developing a series “to show audiences a deeper and more empathetic side to him.” Since he’s a major sports fan, it might involve commentating, but not for golf. Bush says his voice wasn’t made for a golf whisper.
He doesn’t believe Trump really grabs women by the pussy.
“I felt that, in that moment, he was being typically Donald, which is performing and shocking,” Bush says. “When he said what he said, I’d like to think if I had thought for a minute that there was a grown man detailing his sexual assault strategy to me, I’d have called the FBI.”
Read the full profile at The Hollywood Reporter.