NEW YORK (AP) — NBC News on Monday fired “Today” show host Billy Bush, who was caught on tape in a vulgar conversation about women with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump before an “Access Hollywood” appearance.
Bush was suspended at the morning show two days after contents of the 2005 tape were reported on Oct. 7. Once it became clear he wouldn’t be back, NBC and Bush’s representatives had been negotiating terms of his exit.
On the tape, Bush is heard laughing as Trump talks about fame enabling him to grope and try to have sex with women not his wife. Trump has denied groping women, and Bush later said he was “embarrassed and ashamed” by what was caught on tape.
NBC made the announcement of his firing in a note from “Today” show top executive Noah Oppenheim to his staff. Oppenheim called Bush, who spent 15 years at “Access Hollywood,” ”a valued colleague and longtime member of the broader NBC family. We wish him success as he goes forward.”
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Bush, a 44-year-old father of three and nephew of former President George H.W. Bush, said that he was “deeply grateful for the conversations I’ve had with my daughters, and for all of the support from family, friends and colleagues. I look forward to what lies ahead.”
The settlement with NBC did not include a non-compete clause, meaning Bush “is a free agent,” said his lawyer, Marshall Grossman. Financial terms of the deal were kept confidential.
In an interview with CNN on Monday, Trump’s wife, Melania, said that her husband was “egged on” by Bush in the conversation.
“I wonder if they even knew the mic was on,” Melania Trump said, referring to her husband and Bush. She said they were involved in “boy talk, and he was led on — like egged on — from the host to say dirty and bad stuff.”
Asked to comment, Grossman said, “I thought that Donald Trump would claim that he was not on the bus.”
In the 2005 tape, which was first revealed by The Washington Post, Trump discusses unsuccessfully seeking an affair with another “Access Hollywood” employee, Nancy O’Dell. Trump said that when he was attracted to beautiful women “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet.” He said that when you’re a star, women let you.
“Grab them by the p—-. You can do anything,” Trump added.
The two men discussed an actress who was waiting from at the end of the bus ride. When they got off, Bush urged the woman to hug Trump and added, “how about a little hug for the Bushy?”
Trump said in the second presidential debate that he never did any of the actions heard on the tape, which he described as locker room talk. But a number of women have since come forward and said that Trump had surprised them in the past by groping or unexpectedly kissing them on the lips.
Bush had only worked at “Today” for two months. Since women make up roughly two-thirds of the audience during the hour that he hosted, he faced an uphill battle gaining the trust of viewers.
NBC, which did not comment on the agreement beyond Oppenheim’s statement, had Harry Connick Jr. filling in for Bush on Monday and Tuesday.
Follow David Bauder at twitter.com/dbauder. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-bauder