So, former NBC Today Show ‘personality’ Billy Bush has reemerged after going into seclusion for seven months following last year’s revelation of an eleven year old recording of sexually explicit banter between him and, now President of the United States, Donald Trump. Bush’s very serious face is on the cover of this week’s Hollywood Reporter, above the (exclusive) caption ‘Billy Bush Breaks his Silence’. The revelation of the now infamous recording, on which Trump says filthy things about women, and Bush mainly giggles, should have ended Trump’s candidacy, but instead became just another ugly marker on his long, strange trail to the White House.
Bush on the other hand was fired from his new job on Today, and then given a multimillion dollar severance package, which might have made it easier for him to spend the last seven months thinking deeply about how to be a better person. He talks about this a lot in the article, and thereby gives the impression of someone so accustomed to the protections of privilege that he has no idea how ridiculous he sounds.
The article, written by Lacey Rose and Marisa Guthrie, is a great example of how to give a guy enough rope to hang himself. Rose and Guthrie maintain a subtle, by-Hollywood-for-Hollywood, air of barbed ‘neutrality’, blandly describing Bush’s “shaky start” on Today, including his infamous interview of Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, during which Lochte told one whopper after another, and Bush expressed almost no skepticism. (It was so inept that Bush got a live-on-air rebuke from his colleague, Al Roker, which became heated, and was both dramatic and hilarious, since it took place on a beach, and they were wearing identical shirts.)
Rose and Guthrie coolly mention Bush’s ‘lack of hard news experience’ prior to getting the Today job, and his, ‘snarky red carpet presence’, in his previous work on the celebrity beat. And they allow the fact that he lost his job and became a “late night punch line”, while Trump got elected President of the United States, to just hang there, like a pair of torn boxers on a clothesline. The notion that, as a wealthy, terminally white member of a family that includes two US Presidents, this is as tough as Billy Bush’s life is ever going to get, is never mentioned either, but it’s hanging there as well.
There’s a note preceding the transcript of the interview which states that his lawyer and publicist were present throughout. So, Bush, already not articulate, is on a bit of a tightrope, which he does not do well at. The result is sentences like this:
“I’ve come out of this with a deeper understanding of how women can connect to the feeling of having to fight extra hard for an even playing field. The ground isn’t even. Maybe it’s improving, but still it isn’t even.”
Well hell, that belongs on a tee shirt!
Or this: “I put together an apology right away, the one you saw; I told people that I was ashamed and embarrassed. And I was.”
Talk about placing the cart before the horse, and the cart’s already on that uneven ground, so now the wheels are coming off! But he keeps talking, and when asked if he’d ever before heard Trump talk the way he does on the tape, Bush even throws in a metaphor:
“I don’t recall anything to that degree. But he’s a provocateur. Shocking statements flow like wine from him, and he likes to captivate an audience.”
If you’re feeling a bit seasick, I’m with you.
Bush’s logic is as tortured as his prose. When asked if their conversation was ‘locker room banter’, Bush says, “I’m an athlete, and no that is not the type of conversation that goes on, or that I’ve participated in.”
So… the conversations go on without you?
At another point, in support of the idea that Trump’s behavior on the tape was all just an act, he compares our president to Andrew Dice Clay.
Dice should sue.
And then Bush says this: “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.”
Well, I’d like to think that you don’t think so good, Billy.
He appears to mean that he knew Trump well enough to confidently dismiss the notion that Trump really was talking about what he does to women.
But, immediately after that exchange Ms. Rose or Guthrie read the following quote to Bush, from now President Donald Trump, regarding the tape: “Anyone who knows me knows that those words don’t reflect who I am.”
And that’s when Bush says, “I don’t know who he is. We don’t have a personal relationship and never have.”
It’s as if he just remembered his lawyer’s instructions. Or maybe the lawyer had to pass him a note. Either way, you can almost hear the sudden urgency to get that lie on record.
Of course he knew Donald Trump. He pursued him, microphone in hand so successfully that he admits in this same interview that when The Apprentice was becoming a ratings juggernaut, “He was the core of my job for a period of time… It was my job to be in with Trump… I needed to be in, or maybe I’d be out..”
Regarding the tape, Bush also talks about wishing that he’d changed the subject, and he admits, “I didn’t have the strength of character to do it.” He also couldn’t have possibly imagined that this narcissistic buffoon would become President of the United States. But let’s be clear. He knew the guy. They had a professional relationship of the most sycophantic kind. Trump was comfortable describing what he does to women, because he knew Billy Bush wouldn’t out him for it.
The point here is to poke fun at Billy Bush, but also to shake a fist at the malignant mediocrity he represents. He’s part of the shiny, vapid jangle of meaningless ‘entertainment’ that provides distraction from, and subtle encouragement for, the violence, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, class hatred, and especially profound corruption of so much of our national discourse.
Billy Bush traded on his family connections to become a semi-famous sycophant whose job it was to hang around with people more famous than him and then talk about them on TV. In the process he earned access to Donald Trump, back when Trump was an amusingly grotesque clown/billionaire who said ‘You’re Fired’ on TV.
In the Hollywood Reporter cover story Bush admits to having known about the disgusting tape that their voices are on, practically since it was recorded. But back then neither he, nor anyone else, had any idea that Trump would run for President, let alone…
So Bush might even have forgotten about it, since catching a celebrity doing or saying something gross or indiscreet is the currency of his line of work. Then, when it was played publicly, it shoved him into a spotlight that was way too bright for him to handle. And after reading the cover story of this week’s Hollywood Reporter, one is likely to conclude that that spotlight is still very bright, and Billy Bush is still… not. I don’t feel sorry for him, but I feel a little bit sorry for him.
My 92 year old mom, who is a lovely, tasteful, discreet, articulate lady, used to love The Apprentice. She and 45 million other Americans used to tune in every week. Trump was just as ridiculous, but kind of fun back then, remember? She is 92, and has dementia now, so she doesn’t know what Donald Trump has become. If she suddenly remembered him, and was told what job he currently holds, I’m sure she would howl with laughter.
I’m very glad she’ll never know that it’s true.