NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former NBC “Today” show host Billy Bush wishes he had changed the subject during a taped conversation with Donald Trump, in which the Apprentice star bragged about grabbing women by the genitals, Bush said in an interview with the entertainment magazine, The Hollywood Reporter.
Bush, 45, lost his job as a host of NBC’s flagship morning show after the tape, recorded more than a decade ago, was leaked to the media in October, causing public outrage and threatening to kill Trump’s chances of becoming president.
Bush laughed on the video as Trump boasted about groping women without their permission and of trying to seduce a married woman.
Initially, NBC indicated Bush would keep his job and be allowed to apologize on air, Bush told the Reporter in his first interview since the tape’s release. He said he immediately drafted an apology expressing his shame.
But Bush was suspended by NBC on the Monday after the tape’s release on Friday, Oct. 7, and then a week later, he was let go with a multimillion severance package.
“It hurt a lot, and I fell apart,” Bush said about the firing in the interview on Sunday with the online and print magazine.
Bush talked about receiving a call from his tearful then 15-year-old daughter after the video was released and apologizing to her.
Since his departure from NBC, Bush said he has taken up yoga and meditation, and he attended a seminar with motivational speaker Tony Robbins.
Speaking of the conversation with Trump, taped in 2005 as the men waited to film a segment for “Access Hollywood,” Bush’s employer at the time, Bush said he wished he had changed the subject instead of egging Trump on. “But I didn’t have the strength of character to do it,” he said.
After the release of the tape, Trump characterized his comments as “locker room talk,” but Bush disagreed in his Sunday interview.
Bush said he felt he needed to play along with Trump because the “Apprentice” was the most valuable TV show at the time on NBC, which “Access Hollywood” was affiliated with.
Bush said he didn’t believe Trump knew the audio tape was rolling during the conversation. Bush said he was accustomed to Trump, whom he had interviewed several times, making shocking and exaggerated comments.
“When he said what he said, I’d like to think if I had thought for a minute that there was a grown man detailing his sexual assault strategy to me, I’d have called the FBI,” Bush said.
Bush, who said he did not know who leaked the tape, has not spoken to Trump since the tape’s release.
He said he was currently working on a series that will involve interviews, pop culture and sports.
Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Bernadette Baum