Billy Bush will not appear on Monday's Today show after all, an NBC News spokesperson confirmed Sunday. He's unlikely to return to the show this week, if he returns at all, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.
Bush was scheduled to be in his anchor seat for the 9 a.m. hour of the Today show and had planned to address his vulgar comments made during a 2005 hot mic conversation with Donald Trump for a segment on Access Hollywood, which Bush was then hosting.
"The plan is for him to have a chance to apologize," an NBC source said earlier Sunday. But the situation remained fluid. And apparently the outcry was loud enough - externally and internally - that NBC News could not let Bush appear.
Another issue for Bush and NBC News executives, beyond viewer defection, is the very real possibility that celebrities, and particularly actresses, that the Today show books to appear on the 9 a.m. hour, which is feature- and entertainment-heavy, would balk at being interviewed by Bush.
NBC executives stressed that once they learned of the Access Hollywood tape, they "immediately decided it was newsworthy," said a source. "There was never any question that we need to protect Billy or that it would see air."
The tape came to light internally on Monday, when an Access Hollywood producer unearthed it. And Bush is clearly an enthusiastic participant in the lewd and misogynistic conversation. The news division then spent the week legally vetting the contents. They gained clearance from the NBC legal department on Thursday. NBC News also had agreed to let Access Hollywood air their piece first. But by Friday, it was leaked to the Washington Post, which broke the story.
"NBC News did exactly what you would expect from a great news organization," an NBC spokesperson said in a statement issued Sunday afternoon. "As soon as we saw the tape and made the assessment it was undoubtedly newsworthy, we moved quickly and deliberately to get it published and to do so in the most responsible way."
Bush has already rubbed some people the wrong way at the Today show, say sources, including Al Roker, with whom Bush clashed on air over Bush's handling of the Ryan Lochte interview. Once source described him as "unliked" even before the Trump tape. There is ample proof on social media that Bush's objectifying conversation with Trump has outraged many women - the show's core viewer constituency.
Bush's Facebook page is currently filled with critical comments from women. According to The New York Times, a call to his office went to a voicemail message recorded by an assistant saying, "You've reached Billy Bush's office. He's busy making America great again."
New York Magazine writer-at-large and Veep executive producer Frank Rich and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof are among those calling for Bush's ouster. Rich tweeted Sunday, "If @NBC keeps Billy Bush, a cheerleader for sexual assault, on air, @TODAYshow is done for a generation."
If @NBC keeps Billy Bush, a cheerleader for sexual assault, on air, @TODAYshow is done for a generation. https://t.co/0LQRnaeNXf
- Frank Rich (@frankrichny) October 9, 2016
NBC has great journalists. I wish it would empower them, rather than celebrity interviewers and sexual assault apologists like Billy Bush. https://t.co/EnicPzQPWF
- Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) October 9, 2016
Even if he hadn't participated in harassment of a colleague, hasn't Billy Bush shown he lacks the news judgment to be part of a news org?
- Anil Dash (@anildash) October 9, 2016
NBC you need to do something here. How Billy Bush behaved was not OK. You need to make that very very clear. https://t.co/aPz7glA8bJ
- Rachel Sklar (@rachelsklar) October 9, 2016
If Billy Bush had been thinking like a reporter (or not hoping to avoid embarrassment), he would have shared w NBC News during primaries
- David Folkenflik (@davidfolkenflik) October 8, 2016
I never understood the Billy Bush hire for TODAY anyway. I prefer Willie Geist. Would love to see Geist get an expanded role
- Shawn Reynolds (@ShawnWTVM9) October 9, 2016
He better not --> Billy Bush will not return to work at 'Today' show on Monday https://t.co/nRFHL67yWe via @BostonGlobe
- Marcela E. Garcia (@marcela_elisa) October 9, 2016