Billy Bush, the newest member of the Today show team, was reeling with embarrassment Friday night, as his future teetered on a precipice thanks to his participation in Donald Trump's toxic talk about women and sex more than a decade ago.
Bush, a former anchor on Access Hollywood, was heard joking and laughing with Trump on a leaked 2005 audio tape of an encounter in which Trump made numerous lewd remarks and bragged about being famous enough to freely sexually harass women.
Their conversation was unabashedly coarse. Trump graphically describes attempts to sleep with a married woman, brags he can get away with any behavior because he's a "star," and claims he immediately starts kissing "beautiful" women when he meets them.
"I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her," he says prior greeting a woman while visiting the set of Days of Our Lives," Trump says.
Bush, 44, laughs at Trump's talk, at one point saying, "Whatever you want." At the end, he's heard saying to Trump: "You're my man."
Neither come off looking classy; both seem to bring out each other's inner drunken frat boy. Both were employees of NBC Universal at the time, Bush on Access and Trump as a reality star of The Apprentice. Their encounter, some of it on an Access bus, came when they taped a segment for the show.
The misogynistic exchange may or may not affect Trump's campaign as the Republican nominee for president of the United States: He tried to brush it off, in a statement late Friday, as mere "locker room banter" signifying nothing.
But it was a bombshell for Bush (a cousin to former President George W. Bush and to his brother, failed GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush), who was not so sanguine.
“Obviously I’m embarrassed and ashamed," he said in a statement issued via NBC Universal. "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.”
Now that Bush has graduated from the celeb-news world of Access and started working in New York on Today only weeks ago, it's unclear whether he can continue there after this development. NBC Universal declined to comment on that point.
A petition on Change.org demanded Bush be fired.
"Whether this conversation took place 10 years ago, or 10 minutes ago, the kind of person who would engage another with this kind of language has NO place on television. Billy Bush should be ashamed of himself; NBC and The Today Show should be ashamed of Billy Bush and must separate from him immediately," said the petition by Eric Johnson, which had more than 300 signers soon after he posted it.
An avalanche of derision, directed at Trump and Bush, poured onto Twitter, including tweets from some of the celebrities Bush himself has interviewed over his years at Access.