Billy Bush said he’s not angry with President Donald Trump for bragging about sexually assaulting women on the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape that leaked weeks before the 2016 election and cost him his job.
“He was being him,” Bush told CBS’ Gayle King in a prerecorded interview that aired Tuesday when asked if there were any hard feelings. “I think part of that personality and character was why he was successful in a boardroom.”
Bush said he would be open to have a conversation with Trump in the future because he’s “a really important person.”
The tape, recorded during Bush’s first year as co-host on “Access Hollywood” in 2005, features Trump boasting that he can grab women “by the pussy” because he’s “a star.” Bush can be heard laughing in response.
The Washington Post first published a leaked copy of the tape in October 2016, which sparked intense bipartisan backlash toward Trump. The real estate mogul, however, remained the Republican nominee and won the presidential election a month later. Bush was fired days after the tape’s release.
Asked why he didn’t confront Trump about his lewd remarks at the time, Bush told King that he was worried about losing him as a guest.
“Trump’s the kind of guy who would say, ‘Forget Billy Bush,’” he said. “You’re a little anxious around him because you just want [the interview] to end well and get out.”
Bush made his return to TV on Monday as a host on NBC’s “Extra,” where he addressed the “Access Hollywood” tape scandal and how’s he evolved over the last three years.
“Bad things happen to all of us,” Bush said during Monday’s episode of the entertainment news show. “Going forward I will no doubt have to report on people who have had a bad moment. I’m especially interested in seeing them own it and get back up.”
During his interview with King, Bush said he’s “very grateful” for his new job and is looking forward to “speaking the truth.”
“I remember what it feels like to be all the way down,” Bush said. “And I won’t ever forget that, and think that’s a valuable asset.”
Asked if he had ever thought about harming himself during that time, Bush said, “Sure.”
“Your mind ... plays terrible games on you, when you’re lying on a floor and you’re crying and pulling your hair out,” Bush said, adding that he never felt he was a “serious candidate” for self-harm.
“Close to the end of the rope, but not at the frays,” he said.
Bush claimed the tape had been “weaponized” and that he was essentially caught in the crossfire, adding that “everyone” at NBC knew about the tape before it was released.
“I got taken out but I wasn’t the target,” he told King. “I was told, ‘You’re good. Don’t worry about it. It’s not you. You didn’t say anything.’”
But after some reflection, he said he felt he was “due for some kind of reckoning in my life.”
“I think I needed to grow up a bit,” he said.
Trump, who has been accused by dozens of women of sexual misconduct, had initially dismissed the comments he made on the “Access Hollywood” tape as “locker room talk.” He later reportedly told some people that the voice in the recording wasn’t his, prompting Bush to fire back in an op-ed for The New York Times in 2017.
“Of course he said it,” Bush wrote. “And we laughed along, without a single doubt that this was hypothetical hot air from America’s highest-rated bloviator. ... We now know better.”
Watch Bush’s full interview with “CBS This Morning” here.