After the infamous Trump tape scandal landed Billy Bush in TV exile, he’s returning to the tube on Sept. 9 as host of the revamped Extra, which will now be called ExtraExtra. That comeback — and the scandal that got him fired from the Today show — are the focus of a New York Times story, which he was interviewed for.
In it, he insists, “I’ve changed, and I’ve healed.” He also promised, “I will absolutely be better at my job than I ever was.” And that’s because “I have empathy. I do not like the tearing down of people and this lack of forgiveness and the shaming. I think the people I interview will appreciate that.”
Bush also admitted that he maintains some bitterness about his time at NBC — which came to a swift end in 2016 after his 2005 hot mic conversation with the future president for Access Hollywood, in which Trump infamously said he grabs women “by the p****y,” surfaced — claiming that the other hosts tried to undercut him during his five-month tenure on the morning show.
“You are left with stuff, no matter how much work you do on yourself,” Bush said. (Bush had some drama with Matt Lauer, who lost his job a year later.)
Extra producer Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey also spoke to the paper about agreeing to hire Bush, who got candid with her while campaigning for the job, revealing how he numbed himself with alcohol after the scandal before doing self-help work.
“I looked him in the eye and said, ‘I don’t know if you have enough humility for people to welcome you back,’” she recalled. “America loves a comeback story. But we have to like you for America to like you.”
Though she was won over. And don’t think the scandal will be buried as he embarks on the new show. Gregorisch-Dempsey talked about how it will be handled on-air — in the first episode.
After Bush suggested, back in July, that he talk about at the start of the show, Gregorisch-Dempsey suggested instead, “I think at the end of the show. And you talk about how grateful you are for this chance — one, let’s not forget, given to you by a woman.”
In fact, they don’t seem to be shying away from the scandal at all. In the interview, Gregorisch-Dempsey and Bush recalled how at a recent gathering for news people, she spoke about the revamped show, leading with how the “The p-word is ruining this genre,” to which Bush sputtered in reply, “Really? You’re going there right away?” Gregorisch-Dempsey replied that she was actually talking about the prompter, leading into how they’ll use it less in the new format.
It remains to be seen how viewers will respond to Bush. A spokesperson for the Q Scores Company, which measures the popularity of celebrities, told the NYT Bush is still viewed as a polarizing figure.
Bush was fired by NBC in 2016 after his misogynistic off-camera conversation with Trump hit the news. In it, Bush egged on Trump while he talked about unsuccessfully trying to hit on Bush’s then-Access co-host Nancy O'Dell. Trump also made comments about Days of Our Lives actress Arianne Zucker, who the men were shooting a segment with that day. Bush was fired days later — after just months on the job.
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