On December 3, 2017, NYTimes.com gave my favorite disgraced “celebrity journalist” a platform from which to make attempt at career resuscitation disguised as an op-ed excoriating President Trump for his attempts to deny his words in the infamous Access Hollywood tape … while spreading blame to nearly EVERYONE ELSE on planet Earth for his own behavior.
Along with Donald Trump and me, there were seven other guys present on the bus … and every single one of us assumed … none of this was real.
In 2005, I was in my first full year as a co-anchor of the show Access Hollywood on NBC. Mr. Trump, then on The Apprentice, was the network’s biggest star.
The key to succeeding in my line of work was establishing a strong rapport with celebrities. I did that, and was rewarded for it …
NBC tripled my salary and paid for my moving van from New York to Los Angeles. Was I acting out of self-interest? You bet I was. Was I alone? Far from it … everybody from Billy Bush on up to the top brass on the 52nd floor had to stroke the ego of the big cash cow along the way to higher earnings.
Really? Bush wouldn’t have behaved like he did that day without the pressure of Trump’s perverted pied pipering, the testosterone of the other seven guys on the bus, the soul-sucking job requirements of celebrity interviews and the greedy 30 Rock executives who corrupted him with a promotion, raise and blank check written out to Mayflower Moving?
The funny thing is, while there were some random “whoos” and “whoas” from the other passengers when Trump’s guide for the segment, actress Arianne Zucker, was revealed, it wasn’t any of them that said:
Sheesh, your girl’s hot as shit.
And it DEFINITELY wasn’t any of the others that said the following about a woman who momentarily blocked Bush’s view of Zucker, who he clearly found less attractive than the actress:
Come on, Shorty. Oof, get out of the way, honey.
NBC should have written another check to a moving company as soon as they saw that footage.
This moment in American life is no doubt painful for many women. It is especially painful for the women who have come forward, at the risk of forever being linked to one event, this man …
To these women: I will never know the fear you felt or the frustration of being summarily dismissed and called a liar, but I do know a lot about the anguish of being inexorably linked to Donald Trump. You have my respect and admiration. You are culture warriors at the forefront of necessary change.
Today is about reckoning and reawakening, and I hope it reaches all the guys on the bus.
I think most of us would be happy if it at least reached the President of The United States and the guy that actually instigated all of the physical contact that day:
This last year has been an odyssey, the likes of which I hope to never face again: anger, anxiety, betrayal, humiliation, many selfish but, I hope, understandable emotions.
He could have stopped at selfish.
I know that I don’t need the accouterments of fame to know God and be happy.
If that were true, none of us would be hearing the sound of a starter’s pistol signaling the beginning of Billy Bush’s sprint to back to TV.
Perhaps even more important to his comeback, though, was his appearance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, during which, we get to the real root of his anger.
I was (on the bus) and for the last 14 months of my life I’ve been dealing with it; you dealt with it for 14 minutes and went on to be the President.
Yes, during the segment he checked all of the boxes of contrition and personal growth, but he lead with “I got in trouble but Donald didn’t, that’s not fair.” It isn’t fair, but that’s the real Billy Bush, and his real motivation.
Colbert’s summation, while deservedly harsh on President Trump, disappointingly let Bush off the hook: “I would describe your behavior as sort of borish or callow, but you’re not the person bragging about assault. You’re not the person who is accused of assault.”
No, but he did far more than act “borish or callow.” He made comments about Arianne Zucker’s physical appearance, he was ridiculously judgmental and dismissive toward another woman based on her failure to meet his standards of beauty and HE INITIATED PHYSICAL CONTACT between not only Trump and Zucker, but HIMSELF and Zucker as well. Given the context, aren’t his ACTIONS that day at least as bad as Trump’s WORDS?
Shame on Stephen Colbert for not replaying the part of the Access Hollywood tape showcasing Bush’s ACTIONS that day, and for taking only one shot at Bush in the 12 minute “welcome back to TV” party he threw for him. Though it was a good one:
Bush: “Everyone had to sort of kiss the ring a little bit, of The Donald, because he was making so much money for NBC …”
Tony Marion is a writer and filmmaker who splits time between Lancaster, PA and Baltimore, MD. He lives for the work of Descendents (the band), Chuck Palahniuk and Rian Johnson. Check out the digital embodiment of procrastination he calls his website here.