Bill Maher invited former Today co-host Billy Bush onto his show on Friday, as part of what the Real Time host called his new, attempted “rehabilitation for people who should not have been made to go away.” (Last week, Kathy Griffin made an appearance.)
Bush began by reliving that moment on the Access Hollywood bus with Donald Trump in 2005, the videotaped footage of which leaked and created a huge scandal late in the 2016 election cycle, leading to Bush’s firing from NBC. In the tape, Trump was heard on a hot mic making lewd comments about women and seemingly bragging about committing sexual assault. Bush does not say much in the interaction, only heard laughing and occasionally egging the then-Apprentice host on.
While Bush expressed regret to Maher and his panel, which featured New York Times Wall Street columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, former White House Adviser Nayyera Haq, and SiriusXM host Pete Dominick, he did make a point of defending his conduct in the videotape. “I was the entertainment correspondent for NBC, he was the cash cow. He was pulling 20 million viewers a week or something,” he argued. “You can interrupt him and then you know how volatile he is, so he’d be like, ‘I hate Billy Bush, he’s done, moving on, Entertainment Tonight only, forget Billy Bush,’ and then I have to explain why I lost Trump, the big fish.”
Bush said he “kissed a lot of a–” during that period in his career but that he “drew the line” at giving Trump any Tic Tacs. (In the Access Hollywood video, Trump is heard saying he “uses” Tic Tac mints before kissing women without their consent.) When asked if he would have done anything differently on the bus, Bush admitted, “I probably would have just changed the topic.”
Bush was fired from NBC shortly after the tape leaked. He called the aftermath of the turn of events “chaos,” adding, “You’ve got order in your life and then all of a sudden you’ve got chaos.”
While Maher was sympathetic to Bush, the rest of the panel expressed skepticism. Haq, particularly, called Bush out for leaving actress Arianne Zucker, who was the person being discussed in lewd terms on the Access Hollywood bus, in the vulnerable and uncomfortable position of “coming in afterwards and not knowing everything said in the room before her.” She then quoted the late poet Maya Angelou, saying Bush should follow her advice. “‘When you knew better, you did better,'” Haq said. “I’m calling it social courage for a reason.”