Almost four years to the day after the Access Hollywood scandal first broke, Billy Bush is revisiting the moment that almost derailed his career. (Again.) Speaking with Men’s Health, the Extra host discussed his relationship with Matt Lauer—and why he felt “deeply hurt” by the disgraced Today anchor at the time.
In the fall of 2016, audio leaked of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women on the Access Hollywood bus ahead of a 2005 appearance. Bush punctuated Trump’s monologue with peevish snickers—and when the two dismounted the bus, he urged a woman Trump had just been fantasizing about assaulting to give him a hug.
As Bush prepared to apologize on air, he thought he had Matt Lauer’s support to stay on. Whether or not this was true remains unclear, Men’s Health notes; a source said that Lauer lobbied for Bush with an executive producer, but Lauer himself declined the magazine’s request for comment.
Either way, Bush doesn’t believe Lauer sufficiently had his back: “That he didn’t fight for me is so deeply hurtful because I’ve known him for absolutely ever,” he said. Still, the two have met up since; they shared a meal together in 2017—the same year Lauer would eventually topple from his Today throne amid a wave of sexual misconduct allegations.
The tension between Bush and Lauer might not have been entirely new, either. After Bush got the exclusive on Ryan Lochte’s “robbery” at the 2016 Rio Olympics, an NBC News staffer told Men’s Health that Lauer confronted Bush about rumors that he felt threatened by his newer colleague.
Bush’s brother Jonathan recalled how Billy quoted Lauer at the time: “The rumors about you and I and competition will stop immediately,” Lauer allegedly said. “Do you hear me?” While the NBC source confirmed the exchange to Men’s Health, another source denied that Lauer felt threatened.
So, what have we all learned? According to Bush, his Access Hollywood scandal and its aftermath taught him “that life isn’t fair. Everybody has some kind of fucked-up shit. And if you don’t know that, and if you don’t know how to handle that, process that, get through that, then you haven’t fully gotten to where you need to be.”
“I’m afraid that event was important for my development as a broadcaster, as a journalist, as a man, as a person,” Bush said. “I needed to have my ass handed to me.”