Billy Bush says he turned to alcohol after being fired for infamous Trump video: 'The bottle became my bestie'
Billy Bush was deeply affected by the fallout from his infamous exchange with Donald Trump while taping a 2005 interview for Access Hollywood. Unaired footage of the two had surfaced in the run-up to the 2016 election, showing the two having a lewd conversation. Trump, then the host of The Apprentice, made the comment that he grabbed women "by the p****," while Bush laughed and encouraged the future president. Bush was fired within days, and he was suspended from his job as a co-anchor of Today.
"I think it took me 'til recently… probably four years to really, you know, four or five years to really get... through the PTSD," Bush told Olivia Jade Giannulli on the latest episode of her podcast, Conversations With…. "Because it's brutal… I’m providing for my family…. I have a livelihood, you know? And all of a sudden you're unhirable for three years in the business that you love."
The two explained that Bush is a friend of Giannulli's parents. She also described him as a "dear friend" of her own, someone she's spoken to about the stress of being in the media. (Giannulli, of course, is no stranger to this herself. Her mom and dad, actress Lori Loughlin and designer Mossimo Giannulli, served time in prison for their role in the college admissions scandal, in which they paid a large sum of money to have Olivia Jade and her sister be admitted to the University of Southern California under the guise of being recruits for the row team, although neither rowed.) She and Bush did not use the word scandals, but setbacks.
Bush, who called himself "the OG of cancel culture," said his life since the time of the tape has changed big time. But it didn't happen all at once.
"Well, first I drank a lot of alcohol. Very hard. The bottle became my bestie," he said. "Then I put it down and just started figuring, OK...."
He noted 30 or so books sitting behind him as they taped the podcast.
"I've read every one of them. They were all in the self-help area," he said. "I went to a retreat for 10 days in, uh, northern California. No phones, no electronics. Just about… trying to get the first foot forward again, get walking again. Went to Tony Robbins. I mean, I did everything I possibly could. In the end, it just takes time. And what you really want to do is own your own stuff."
Bush apologized after the video was initially released, and it sounded like that had been helpful in building himself back up.
"The best thing for me, I finally realized, is to own my faults, own my role, own accountability for me and let everyone else, whatever they did, let them do that for themselves. Or if they're not going to, fine. I can only be responsible for myself," he said. "And, frankly, in the end, I'll tell you what it gave me. It gave me a tremendous blessing, and that is — and you can relate to this — there is a lot of value in knowing what it feels like to be down. It makes you approach other people in a different way. It makes you think twice before you cast judgment on someone. It makes you kinda have a more open heart to other people, cause everybody's going through something. We all suffer."
Giannulli asked Bush, the father of three teen or twentysomething daughters, if that had been a challenging time for his family. (He was then married to wife Sydney Davis.)
"Only cause I was despondent. I had a couple of frank conversations with my girls. They know who I am… They also know that back then, 12 years before, that there was a desperate little guy that wanted to make it in the business, who was young and naive and a suck up… whose lips were numb from kissing celebrity ass…," Bush said. "But of course that's what we want to embrace is evolution. At the time I was fired, I was a completely different man. I was not a boy, I was a man. I was a man. I controlled the set. I'm on the Today show. I'm that guy that people walk in and say, 'Oh, I grew up watching you with my mom' or something, and… you're a different person in the room, right? You have a different weight in the room. I couldn't have been a lighter weight back at that moment. So I think it's, you know, I think it's important that we let people evolve. We let people screw up. We embrace failure again...."
Bush has since resurfaced. In 2019, he became the host of Extra.
Giannulli asked when exactly he had realized that he could go back to his life, that the self-work had been enough.
"I just had served my time… depending on how you feel," Bush answered. "Extra was… they needed a captain, a host for the show, and I don't think anyone would ever say that I wasn't good at my job."