The days of Billy Bush’s life are rapidly going from bad to worse. Bush, the first cousin of President George W. Bush and former Florida governor Jeb Bush, has been indefinitely suspended from the third hour of the Today show, NBC’s venerable morning franchise that he officially joined as a co-anchor a mere two months ago—disciplinary action for his role in a crude and sexist conversation he had with Donald Trump 11 years ago when he was hosting Access Hollywood.
Bush’s suspension was announced Sunday night by Noah Oppenheim, senior vice president in charge of Today, in a “Dear TODAY family” memo to the staff.
“I know we’ve all been deeply troubled by the revelations of the past 48 hours,” Oppenheim wrote. “Let me be clear—there is simply no excuse for Billy’s language and behavior on that tape. NBC has decided to suspend Billy, pending further review of this matter.
“If any of you have any questions or concerns please reach out to me directly, anytime day or night. Best, Noah.”
It was unclear when, or if, Bush will be returning to NBC’s air.
The 44-year-old former Access Hollywood host has been embroiled in a DEFCON 1-level controversy since Friday afternoon, when The Washington Post published an 11-year-old video in which Bush participated in a coarse and obscene exchange with Donald Trump about women and women’s body parts as the then-Apprentice star prepared to make a cameo appearance on Days of Our Lives.
The video—in which Trump was heard talking into a hot mic, regaling a laughing Bush and others on an Access Hollywood promotional bus concerning his foiled attempts to have sex with Bush’s then co-host, Nancy O’Dell—has exploded into a major scandal in the 2016 presidential campaign, prompting scores of Republican office-holders to denounce the Republican nominee, withdraw their support, or otherwise call on Trump to leave the race in favor of his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
Bush, who apologized for his role in the conversation on Friday night, didn’t use the same four-letter words and other vulgar language that Trump employed, but he seemed to be egging Trump on as the now-Republican nominee described how because he was famous, he was allowed to kiss beautiful women against their will and grab their genitals.
When soap opera actress Arianne Zucker showed up to greet their bus and escort Trump onto the soap opera’s set, Bush and Trump joined in an appraisal of her physical appearance.
Apparently spotting Zucker, Bush exclaims: “Sheeesh, your girl’s hot as shit! In the purple.”
“Whoa! Whoa!” Trump exclaims.
“Yes! The Donald has scored!” Bush answers. With a raucous laugh, he adds: “Whoa, my man! You gotta look at her… Give her the thumbs-up. You gotta give the thumbs-up… Oh my God!”
Trump then remarks that he’s going to use some Tic-Tacs, “just in case I start kissing her,” he explains. “When you’re a star, they let you do it.”
“Whatever you want,” Bush agrees.
To general hilarity and laughter among the men, Trump adds: “Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
A few hours after the video went viral, Bush—the married father of three teenage daughters—issued the following apology: “Obviously I’m embarrassed and ashamed. It’s no excuse, but this happened eleven years ago—I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along. I’m very sorry.”
It was unclear Sunday night if that, or any other measure he takes, will be enough to save his job—which depends largely on his appeal to female viewers, a key demographic in Today’s third-hour audience.