Former NBC News host Billy Bush said “everyone” at the Peacock Network knew about the notorious “Access Hollywood” tape of then-reality TV star Donald Trump making lewd comments about women despite the network sitting on it for over a decade.
Bush was famously fired from NBC’s “Today” for his role in the 2005 tape, which that featured him on a bus with then-”Apprentice” star Donald Trump as he bragged about groping women while both were unaware that their words were being recorded on a hot mic. Bush is set to return to television this week as the new host of “Extra” and told “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King the tape was “weaponized” when it was leaked from inside NBC weeks before the 2016 presidential election.
"I was not prepared for what happened, because it happened, like so often things do these days, like that. Took the car to the airport, got on the plane, and boom," Bush told King in an interview that will air on Tuesday.
King asked if the “boom” was the tape being released and questioned if he knew there was a tape of then-candidate Trump making comments that could jeopardize his presidential campaign.
"Everybody did,” Bush said. "Well, everybody at the network. I was comfortable that it wasn’t going to be weaponized."
Bush told King he was “taken out” despite “not being the target” of whoever was responsible for leaking the tape shortly before Election Day.
NBC News declined comment on Monday when reached by Fox News after an excerpt from Bush’s interview was revealed.
The tape was eventually leaked from inside NBC to The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, a friend of NBC News president Noah Oppenheim’s from Harvard University, where they worked as editors together on the student newspaper. Fahrenthold is now a contributor for MSNBC.
Oppenheim, who oversees “Today,” was widely criticized but denied leaking the tape and remains NBC News chairman Andy Lack’s top deputy. He was also atop NBC News when the network decided not to run Ronan Farrow’s reporting on now-disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. NBC could have outed Weinstein as a serial sexual harasser months before The New York Times and The New Yorker published the stories that derailed Weinstein’s career. NBC claimed that Farrow’s story as they’d seen it did not meet their editorial standards.
Farrow took the story to the prestigious New Yorker magazine, which published the explosive piece without reservation. Farrow’s reporting won the Pulitzer Prize and helped launch the #MeToo movement.
Farrow is expected to reveal his side of the story regarding NBC’s decision not to expose Weinstein in an upcoming book.
The “Access Hollywood” tape and Farrow’s Weinstein coverage both resulted in NBC News being scooped on high-profile stories it could have reported itself.
It remains unclear why NBC didn’t publish the “Access Hollywood” tape itself.
Meanwhile, Trump survived the tape and defeated Hillary Clinton in the general election a few weeks after it was published by the Washington Post. Bush was dismissed from NBC for his role in the tape but initially felt his job at NBC was safe despite being seen on the tape nodding along to Trump’s comments.
"I was told, ‘You’re good, don’t worry about it. It’s not you, you didn’t say anything.’ Remember, it was leaked on a Friday and then Sunday morning, I walked out that door, right over there, with my bags to go back to work,” Bush explained to King. “And the driver said, 'I'm sorry, they've canceled the car.' I said, ‘Oh that must be a mistake.' I called my lawyer and I said 'Uh are we okay?' He said, 'Nope.'"
Bush was fired from “Today” and returns to television on Monday after nearly three years.