UPDATE: Billy Bush has been suspended from Today, according to a source at NBC News who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter. A memo went out to Today show staff Sunday announcing his suspension pending further review.
NEW YORK (AP) — Just as Donald Trump is being watched in Sunday's debate to see how he responds to a recently surfaced videotape of a crude conversation about women, NBC Today show personality Billy Bush will likely have some explaining to do when he resurfaces on the air.
When that will be isn't clear. NBC News announced Sunday that Bush will not appear Monday as host of the Today third hour at 9 a.m., a job he's held for two months. No further details were provided.
The 2005 tape was made when Bush worked on the entertainment news show Access Hollywood as he rode with Trump to the set of a daytime drama where Trump made a cameo appearance. In the tape, the Republican presidential candidate brags about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women who were not his wife. Bush joins in, laughing at some of Trump's comments and later encouraging an actress to hug Trump.
Bush, 44, has been brutalized on his own Facebook page since the tape surfaced. Hundreds of hostile comments were attached to Bush's last posting on Friday — of him distributing a plate of bacon to Today viewers outside of the show's studio. "You are sickening!" one woman wrote, in a comment that nearly 5,000 had "liked" through Sunday afternoon.
Angering women viewers of a show as important to NBC's bottom line as Today is no small matter. Many viewers upset by 2012's messy dumping of Ann Curry as Today host took it out on colleague Matt Lauer; the show's ratings still haven't recovered. Women make up the majority of Today viewers, particularly in the last two hours.
Even before this incident, Bush had a rocky start. He was the reporter to whom American swimmer Ryan Lochte lied about being robbed at the Olympics. When Bush later tried to defend Lochte on Today, he was dressed down by colleague Al Roker.
The Access Hollywood tape was an embarrassment on multiple levels for NBC News. The news division for days had been aware of the tape from the NBC-owned entertainment show, but was scooped Friday by The Washington Post when the newspaper was tipped off about its existence and got a story out within hours.
Bush issued a statement Friday apologizing for his actions.
The tape showed Bush and Trump speaking as the Republican was about to appear on the daytime drama Days of Our Lives. From the bus they had ridden to the set, Bush pointed out to Trump an actress, Arianne Zucker, who was there to greet them.
Bush called the actress "hot," adding an expletive.
"I've gotta use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her," Trump said. "You know, I'm automatically attracted to beautiful ... I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything."
"Grab them by the p----. You can do anything," Trump added.
After getting off the bus, Bush asks the actress to hug Trump, then added, "How about a little hug for the Bushy?"
The married father of three is the nephew of former President George H.W. Bush.
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