On Saturday, I called Billy Bush dead meat at NBC. And it looks as if the network, which suspended the “Today” show host Sunday night, is about to make that official.
I could find no one in the TV news industry the last two days who thinks there is any way back for Bush at NBC News after a 2005 tape surfaced Friday that showed him him cheering on Donald Trump as the businessman -- and now GOP presidential nominee -- talked proudly of how he sexually assaults women.
Brian Stelter, CNN’s senior media correspondent, reported Tuesday afternoon that negotiations are taking place between the network and Bush’s representatives for the departure of the 44-year-old show host, who was promoted to the job on “Today” in May.
Citing unnamed sources, Hollywood Reporter is also saying an exit for Bush is in the works -- and that it could happen by the end of the week.
In my Saturday post, I took on the claim Bush made in his lame apology that he was merely “playing along with Trump” as the two talked misogynistically about Nancy O’Dell, a co-host on “Access Hollywood” with Bush at the time, and an actress, Arianne Zucker, who was on her way to greet Trump and Bush and walk them to a soundstage set. The conversation between Bush and Trump took place on a bus taking them to the soundstage.
“You weren’t playing along, Billy, you were sucking up by putting women down,” I wrote. “You were egging this narcissistic fool on with your lackey-boy-you-go-big-Donald locker-room crap.”
Bush was reveling in Trump’s sick, predatory talk, and when Zucker arrived as their escort, Bush played the role of pimp, urging her to hug Trump and then demanding a hug for himself, too. It was pure bully-boy cruelty – hug the man who just verbally abused you.
For the record, Zucker issued a statement saying, “ … I am a strong, independent, hard working mother, business woman and partner to a great man. I have grown to learn that the words of others cannot effect the value of my self worth or define the content of my character. How we treat one another, whether behind closed doors, locker rooms or face to face, should be done with kindness, dignity and respect. Unfortunately, there are too many people in power who abuse their position and disregard these simple principles and are rewarded for it …”
These two poster boys for male privilege should have 1 percent the strength and content of character this statement suggests.
Here’s part of the case NBC is expected to make in ditching Bush.
First, according to the New York Post, he is reported to have been boasting about the 11-year-old conversation and tape of it to co-workers over the summer. If that’s the case and he did not share the news potential of that with his supervisors, he did serious damage to the credibility of NBC News, his employer.
The tape has, after all, become the biggest single bombshell of the race so far. And NBC News looks horrible for letting it surface at The Washington Post instead of on the network.
Readers here know that I think NBC is one of the worst news operations on television. But even if the network had the tape the last two weeks and kept it off the air for other reasons, you know it is going to blame Bush if it can.
And, you know what I say?
Boo hoo, Billy, you worm. You deserve anything you get in the backstage, hardball politics of a shamed TV news operation that is trying to save face.
“People” magazine is reporting that NBC had the tape and wanted to try and edit Bush out of it before releasing it. NBC denies that, and as many times as NBC has lied to me, even I believe the executives at NBC News wouldn’t be crazy enough to think they could get away with such an egregious edit.
NBC can also show cause to fire simply for the damage Bush’s behavior has already done to the “Today” and network brand. And there is no single news program more important in terms of money to the network than its morning show. All NBC has to do here is grab a tiny fraction of the Facebook and Twitter comments the last four days from women saying they will never watch the “Today” show or NBC as long as Bush is employed there.
I have an email basket full of them if the network is looking for more.