Billy Bush is sorry.
If you didn’t catch that with his Hollywood Reporter sit-down, you did with his Good Morning America interview — it’s been a busy week. Yes, after lying low for seven months, he’s on a public redemption tour in hopes of winning back the respect of the public — and maybe getting a new job. (What, you don’t expect him to live on his $9 million Today show severance, do you?)
We’ve seen enough celebrities screw up to notice a pattern — the steps that stars take to try to wiggle back into our good graces — and Bush’s apology tour, for laughing during Donald Trump’s infamous “grab them by the p****” comments, is pretty formulaic, with a hint of over-the-top (a new photo of him kissing a baby). Let’s break it down…
1. Admit that you’ve been a big ol’ ass. Bush has been doing it pretty much all along — right away after the 2005 audio was leaked leading up to the presidential election, and then later, after his subsequent firing from the Today show, on social media. (The top photo — in which he’s reading a book his friend wrote that he jokingly (?) said had included him, called Ass-holes — is one example.) Seven months later, he’s stepped it up. He told the Hollywood Reporter that when he heard the tape, three days before the rest of the world did, “I was shocked and alarmed and totally and completely gutted. It was awful. And my participation was awful, too. I remember that guy, he was almost sycophantic. It was my first year as co-host of Access Hollywood, and I was an insecure person, a bit of a pleaser, wanting celebrities to like me and fit in.” Talk about taking full responsibility.
The dad of three took it up a notch by telling a story about how his 15-year-old daughter, Mary, cried when she heard the tape and called him out for laughing along at Trump’s lewd comments. “[She] called me from boarding school, and she was in tears: ‘Dad, Dad, Dad,’ and I said, ‘Everything is going to be fine, Mary. Everything’s going to be OK.’ It’s just instinctively what you say to your daughter. And she said, ‘No, why were you laughing at the things that he was saying on that bus, Dad? They weren’t funny.’ It hit really hard, and I stopped for a second, and I said, ‘I have no answer for that that’s any good. I am really sorry. That was Dad in a bad moment a long time ago. You know me. I am really sorry that you had to hear and see that. I love you.’ She needed to hear that, and I certainly needed to tell her that.”
And it was more of the same in his interview with Good Morning America this week, going so far as saying, “I sacrificed … my own dignity in that moment.”
2. Make it clear that you’ve apologized to injured parties. Bush said that he had apologized to Nancy O’Dell, his former Access Hollywood co-host whom Trump was talking about shamelessly trying to bed while she was married — though he wouldn’t get into specifics about what he said. (“I need to keep that between me and Nancy.”) O’Dell confirmed on her show, Entertainment Tonight, that Bush had sent her an apology three weeks ago, and she wished him well in a polite but distant manner. (Perhaps because he probably should have apologized seven months ago.) There’s been no mention of any apology to soap star Arianne Zucker, who was another target of the so-called locker room talk.
Bush made sure to distance himself from Trump in both interviews, making it clear that they have no relationship outside the handful of interviews they did. He also noted that he hadn’t talked to the now-president since 2015.
3. Talk about what you’ve done to change. The public always wants to know that the person has done something to try to change, and Bush offered up… his exercise regimen and reading list. He talked at length about his soul-searching, which included a stint at a Napa Valley healing retreat, meditation, yoga, boxing, reading books like 10% Happier, and walking on hot coals with spiritual guru Tony Robbins.
4. Kiss some babies. Perhaps our favorite step, though, is this one. We had to laugh when, in the midst of trying to get people to like him again, Bush’s former colleague Hoda Kotb shared pix of him kissing and cuddling her baby, Haley Joy, earlier today. It’s like, OK, we get it. You want us to think you’re a good guy. Just a hint, but a little subtlety goes a long way.
Bush also made it clear that while walking on fiery coals and reading books are good for the soul and everything, he wants to get back to work. He’s been “developing a series designed to show audiences a deeper and more empathetic side to him,” the Hollywood Reporter said.
So we guess we should prepare for more photos of Billy Bush cuddling babies on his long road back.
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