Billy Bush's lawyer claims star risked firing if he rebuked Trump

An attorney for Billy Bush is defending the TV personality's part in a lewd 2005 exchange with Donald Trump.

Marshall Grossman told The Hollywood Reporter that Bush would have been fired from his then-job with "Access Hollywood" if he'd been passive or told Trump to shut up.

Grossman noted Bush was a NBC Universal employee talking with NBC's "The Apprentice" star.

The attorney, who was quoted by the trade paper online Thursday, declined comment when reached by phone.

Both NBC and "Access Hollywood" declined to comment on the report. A publicist for Bush didn't immediately respond when asked for comment.

NBC wasn't talking publicly about Bush's future on Wednesday. But the network is privately negotiating the "Today" show host's exit, according to an executive with knowledge of the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity because it is a personnel matter. When Bush was suspended Sunday, "Today" chief executive Noah Oppenheim said there was "simply no excuse" for Bush's language and behavior on the 2005 tape revealed Friday.

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Bush, 44, is the nephew of former President George H.W. Bush. He worked at "Access Hollywood" for 15 years, but only started on Aug. 29 as host of the "Today" third hour at 9 a.m.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.