Less than a week after a tape was leaked showing him engaging in “locker-room talk” with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Billy Bush‘s world has imploded. He was spotted out and about on Monday in a T-shirt and flip-flops, unshaven and looking generally the worse for wear, as talk of his impending ouster from NBC and the Today show grew louder. The apology he issued on Friday as he attempted to do damage control seems to have fallen short.
From just about the moment the news broke, Bush was apparently “devastated and crying,” a source told Us Weekly. “He was crying that his career was over.” So the question that remains is: Is it?
It certainly seems to be shaping up that way, at least in the short term, as more reports are coming out that it’s just a matter of time before he and NBC will part ways. The Hollywood Reporter says that Bush and NBC are just negotiating terms for his exit now and he’s hired a high-powered crisis PR and strategy team to help him out. CNN Money is reporting the announcement will come in a matter of days.
Since the recording surfaced and he was suspended, several high-profile members of the Hollywood elite have come to Bush’s defense. During an appearance on Good Day, D.C., actress Kate Walsh said she thought Bush had “a great opportunity to correct this.” She went on to add, “I think it’s very odd that we have someone who’s said what Donald Trump has said and is still able to run for president, and that NBC has taken the action to suspend Billy Bush. I know Billy and I know that he is accountable and that he is an amazing father and husband and friend and he will step forward and discuss this.”
On Monday morning’s Access Hollywood, Kit Hoover, Bush’s former co-host, also offered her own positive impressions of the embattled host. “I don’t even know where to begin with all of this,” Hoover began. “When the tapes came out on Friday, I was home watching with my 14-year-old daughter, and the tapes are inexcusable. But I’m watching this tape and I’m watching this person — those tapes were a decade ago, and it was seven minutes of someone’s life, and all I can tell you is what I know and the person that I sat next to for the last six years, and that person for me is a totally different person.” She went on to insist that Bush had always treated her “with kindness” and “respect,” adding, “He treated me like an equal from Day 1, and I think anybody that watched our show at home and saw us together knew how much he rooted for me and [was] really always in my corner.” As a final thought, she noted that it was “devastating” to watch this news unfold and reiterated that he has “the biggest heart of anybody, and he is a good person.”
For her part, Natalie Morales chimed in that Bush had been “one of the first people” to congratulate her when she announced that she was going to be joining Access Hollywood Live. “He also offered advice [and to help me] with [my] move and [my] transition. And he said: ‘I can’t think of a better person sitting next to you.’ So there you go.”
And they weren’t the only ones — Piers Morgan and Jamie Lee Curtis jumped in to lend their support as well. “As Billy Bush gets shredded by US media, I’d like to say I’ve known him 10yrs & always found him to be a good guy & excellent broadcaster,” Morgan tweeted. “Let’s not just throw deleted account Billy Bush who is not running 4 president under the [bus] It is @realDonaldTrump whose comments r repugnant,” Curtis shared.
Others, however, including Tamron Hall and Al Roker, refrained from commenting either way. Hall and Roker noted Bush’s absence from the program, but left any editorializing out of it. (This is worth noting: They had an opportunity to say something on the subject if they felt strongly enough, and chose not to). Additionally, reports surfaced that Kathie Lee Gifford didn’t want Bush assigned to the show’s fourth hour, because she wanted no association with him. “She has Jesus in her life and feels this is just not right,” the source told Page Six.
Whether or not Kathie Lee wanted to distance herself, however, is hardly Bush’s only worry at this point. A source told People that there could be a “mutiny” from female staffers if Bush wasn’t disciplined. “I don’t want to see him again,” the source explained. “And I think there are a lot of women who feel the same way.” Now that Bush has been suspended, the bigger question is whether that status will be made permanent.
An insider added that the 44-year-old host, “hasn’t really endeared himself to the rest of the cast and crew anyway, so they’re fine with him leaving, if that’s what the decision is.” In other words, there may not be many people who have his back in house, and that could be a factor if the powers that be are on the fence about what to do with him.
“Ever since [Ryan] Lochte, a lot of people have thought that he was a liability anyway,” the insider noted to People. “Tamron doesn’t like him, and they have always been uncomfortable around each other. Al doesn’t speak to him, like, at all. There is no love lost there.” That would further explain Hall and Roker’s silence on the subject to date. “Matt [Lauer] is okay with him, not friends, but okay. He doesn’t have much of a relationship with Savannah. So it won’t be a loss to any of them personally if he doesn’t come back.”
The source argued that Bush’s presence didn’t affect the show much anyway, so his job was hardly secure. “The network and producers are going to have to decide if he’s such a liability that they have to take stronger action. Does anyone tune in to Today to watch Billy? Probably not really. So if he leaves, it’s not a big deal.”
But just when Billy might have thought things couldn’t get any worse, rumblings began that NBC might take legal action against him. Page Six is now claiming that Bush inadvertently brought about his own demise by bragging about having a “tape of Trump being a real dog” to other NBC staff members while in Rio. Speculation has arisen that this is what got NBC staffers to hunt down the tape in the first place. (Oops.) Beyond showing bad judgment, however, that may end up proving problematic for his deal with NBC, and even become a legal issue.
“If he knew about the tape, and remembered the full extent of such an explosive conversation with a presidential candidate and didn’t disclose that to NBC News, that is a very, very serious problem,” the insider explained, adding that it could violate the “morality clause” in his contract. Additionally, Bush could be investigated by NBC for signs of possible workplace sexual harassment, because of the comments he made to Trump during the billionaire’s disturbing rant about his former Access co-host Nancy O’Dell. “There is concern that Bush didn’t defend his female co-worker. Instead, he appears to encourage that type of talk about her,” the source noted. (ICYMI, Bush also could be heard on the tape commenting that actress Arianne Zucker was “hot as s***” and noting that all he could see was legs. But would the network really go after Bush for a few comments he made over a decade ago?)
An NBC insider told Page Six that a review of Bush’s actions is already under way and that staff members are being encouraged to come forward “with any concerns about Bush, his inappropriate behavior or frat-boy mentality.” Staff members were also polled on Monday about how they felt about Bush during a meeting at 30 Rock.
It’s safe to say that things are not looking good for the shamed host. “People are saying he can’t recover,” a source told People. “It’s so ironic that the place that got him there — his job on Access Hollywood — is now destroying him.”