The infamous “Access Hollywood” tape — in which President Donald Trump bragged about grabbing women by the hoo-ha — was an inside job, leaked by an NBC News staffer on Billy Bush’s own “Today” show, multiple sources tell Page Six.
“The tape was leaked by the NBC News division, by somebody at the ‘Today’ show,” says one source. “NBC News knew for a while about the existence of the tape. Billy himself had told them about it. People in the news division became frustrated that ‘Access Hollywood’ was taking too long to air it and decided it had to come out.”
“Access” had been working on airing a sanitized version of the tape, which revealed Trump’s comments but protected Bush by editing out his. But the full tape, which was leaked to the Washington Post, featured Bush goading the president. The leak got Bush fired from “Today,” which was, according to the source, part of the plan.
“The leaked tape served a dual purpose: It helped get Bush out of the way — Matt Lauer didn’t like him and felt he was a liability — and NBC thought it would derail Trump,” says the source. “But all it did was crush Billy, and, ironically, his own network was behind it.”
When Bush first came to “Today,” sources told us he did not get along with the cast, who considered him a “frat boy.” Then, he wrong-footed with his Ryan Lochte story about the supposed Rio robbery. And Lauer wasn’t happy that Bush was being hailed as his heir apparent. “The leak was not just a political move,” another source tells us. “Lauer felt threatened.”
The leaker is still at NBC and has not been disciplined, says the source, who adds, “There was no investigation, no internal witch hunt by NBC into who leaked the tape. It served their purposes.”
Another “Today” insider insists, “The leak did not come from ‘Today.’ It was leaked by somebody on the West Coast who hated Billy Bush and wanted to take him down.”
Others at NBC played down Lauer’s role. A source said, “Billy and Matt had a great relationship. Matt had nothing to do with the tape.” Lauer himself added, “This story is a complete fantasy, patently false.”
Bush’s rep didn’t comment.