Billy Bush, who left Access Hollywood to become an anchor on the Today Show, was bound to be the subject on the NBC morning show tomorrow. You know, because he proved that he was a disgusting sub-human when he laughed at Donald Trump's boasts of sexually assaulting women (by grabbing them by the pussy) and insisted a soap opera actress hug Trump and then himself. Now, there are competing reports about whether he'll appear on the program on Monday. [Update: Bush has been suspended from the Today Show—more below.]
The Hollywood Reporter says, "Billy Bush is scheduled to be in his anchor seat for the 9 a.m. hour of the Today show on Monday, NBC executives confirm. He will address his vulgar comments made during a 2005 hot mic conversation with Donald Trump for an Access Hollywood segment, which Bush was then hosting. 'The plan is for him to have a chance to apologize,' said an NBC source."
On the other hand, Variety claims:
NBC has strongly considered keeping troubled anchor Billy Bush off Monday’s broadcast of “Today,” according to a person familiar with the situation, as the network and NBC News grapple with how to handle an embarrassing “Access Hollywood” tape showing the anchor egging on Donald Trump as he made a stream of sexually charged remarks about women.
The situation remains in flux, this person said, but under a scenario being considered, Al Roker and Tamron Hall would host Monday’s broadcast of the 9 a.m. hour of “Today,” while Bush would be sidelined. Roker was supposed to have taken the day off to deal with a surgical procedure, but is preparing to appear on air, this person said. No final decision has been made, this person cautioned, and the ultimate direction is being handed down by executives above Noah Oppenheim, the executive producer of “Today.” A final say on the matter is not expected to come down until later on Sunday, this person said.
Bush apologized after the tape was published by the Washington Post on Friday afternoon, "Obviously I'm embarrassed and ashamed. It's no excuse, but this happened eleven years ago — I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along. I'm very sorry." Bush was 33 at the time when he egged on Trump, who was filming a segment with actress Arianne Zucker, calling her "hot as s--t. In the purple. Whoa, the Donald is good! Whoa, my man!... The Donald scores!"
The NY Times' Susan Dominus calls Bush as "two-bit pimp" as she breaks down the tape:
[I]n some ways, the most disturbing moment of the recording transpires when Bush and Trump descend from the bus. Waiting for them is the actress Arianne Zucker of “Days of Our Lives.” On the bus, her hotness has inspired cackles, what sound like high-fives, expletives. Both men have talked about her legs. Trump has already thrown back some Tic Tacs, in case he decides to lunge for a kiss. But when he steps off the bus, Trump greets her with the courtesy of a Boy Scout: “Hello, how are you, hi!”
“Hi, Mr. Trump, how are you?” Zucker says. She is polite; she is professional.
It is a moment of deeply uncomfortable dramatic irony: We, the audience, know something she does not, which is that only moments earlier, Trump was coldly appraising her body parts. Bush, acting as a two-bit pimp, asks Zucker to hug Trump, and then asks for a hug himself. Her small laugh is as fake as Trump’s politeness; it is all excruciating to watch. Then the three of them, now performing, waltz off together. Zucker is game to play along when Bush presses her to answer which of the two men she would pick. “Both!” she finally says. Maybe Zucker thinks that she is in on the joke. But really, we know, the power is all theirs. It is not just that the two men have erased her as a person, during their conversation on the bus; it is that they share the knowledge that they have done so, silently, collectively, which amplifies their power over her. It is all unspoken, a clubby secret, a male form of control based on exclusion.
Zucker made a statement today, "My name is Arianne (R-E-on) ZUCKER (Zooker) and I am a strong, independent, hard working mother, business woman and partner to a great man. I have grown to learn that the words of others cannot effect the value of my self worth or define the content of my character. How we treat one another, whether behind closed doors, locker rooms or face to face, should be done with kindness, dignity and respect. Unfortunately, there are too many people in power who abuse their position and disregard these simple principles and are rewarded for it. In understanding the magnitude of this situation, I choose to stand tall with self respect and use my voice to enrich, inspire and elevate the best of who we are as people."
It's unclear if Bush will remain with the Today Show; a source told the Hollywood Reporter, "How are any of the women going to be expected to work with him?" Ideally, if he doesn't apologize on air, Bush will be forced to personally apologize to every woman (and man) at the Today Show and Access Hollywood, including ex-colleague Nancy O'Dell. On the tape, Trump admits to trying to "fuck" O'Dell and moving "very heavily" on her but failing.
Bush's reaction? "That's huge news!"
Update: Senior Vice President of NBC News and Executive-in-Charge Noah Oppenheim sent this internal memo:
Dear TODAY Family --
I know we've all been deeply troubled by the revelations of the past 48 hours.
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.
If any of you have any questions or concerns please reach out to me directly, anytime day or night.
One lingering question has been why NBC News sat on the Trump tape; apparently Access Hollywood, which is owned by part of the NBC family, NBC Entertainment, discovered the 2005 audio last week, after the AP's story about Trump's terrible behavior on the set of The Apprentice. But NBC claims they were trying to sort out legal questions about reporting the incident, because it was a "private" conversation. Apparently someone got impatient and ended up send the WaPo's David Farenthold the tape at 11 a.m. on Friday, and the WaPo published its story hours later.