NEW YORK — “Today” show co-host Billy Bush says he is “embarrassed and ashamed” about his role chatting with Donald Trump on a vulgar 2005 videotape revealed Friday.
“It’s no excuse, but this happened eleven years ago – I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along. I’m very sorry,” Bush said in a statement.
Before the statement was released, angry comments piled up on Bush’s Facebook page from viewers who were disgusted by the contents of the tape, in which Trump brags in graphic terms about being able to grope women “when you’re a star.”
The “Today” show Facebook page was also overtaken by hundreds of critical comments. Some viewers said they want Bush to be suspended or fired.
NBC News had no immediate comment on that, either.
Bush is a co-host of the 9 a.m. hour of “Today,” NBC’s highly profitable morning show. He regularly appears during other hours of the four-hour broadcast, which has a predominately female audience.
As the controversy over the tape erupted on Friday afternoon, Anthony Quintano, who formerly ran the “Today” show’s social media efforts, pointed out that “a majority of the ‘Today’ show production staff is female” and said it “won’t go over well internally to keep Billy Bush around.”
It is hard to picture Bush sitting around the “Today” show table on Monday morning, chatting about Sunday night’s presidential debate, given that Trump’s taped comments are sure to be part of the debate.
NBC executives may conclude that his role is untenable through election day.
Or they may choose to ride out the controversy. Bush is a brand-new addition to the morning show, representing a big bet by NBC for the future of the franchise.
Back in 2005, when Bush’s conversation with Trump took place, Bush was a co-host of “Access Hollywood,” the entertainment newsmagazine owned by NBC.
Trump was a colleague of sorts — he was the star of NBC’s prime time reality show “The Apprentice.”
The two men were together to promote Trump’s appearance on an NBC soap opera.
Bush joked around with Trump and seemingly enabled his sexist comments. At one point he urged a female actress to give Trump a hug.
In a statement, Trump said the comments were “locker room banter” and said, “I apologize if anyone was offended.”
The video was not broadcast by NBC at the time it was taped. But it was archived at “Access Hollywood.”
Somehow — it is unclear how — David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post came into possession of a copy.
Fahrenthold has been reporting for months on Trump’s charitable donations and the Trump Foundation.
Contacted by CNNMoney on Friday, he declined to comment about how he obtained the tape.
According to an NBC source, “Access Hollywood” was working on its own story about the same tape, but as of Friday the story “wasn’t quite finalized.”
NBC News was also preparing to cover the tape, following the lead of the entertainment newsmagazine.
After the Washington Post called NBC for comment around noon on Friday, NBC News staff hurried to finish their own story about it. NBC published an account just a few minutes after The Post published.
NBC’s cable news channel MSNBC immediately aired parts of the tape. Correspondent Katy Tur said NBC News obtained it “from ‘Access Hollywood.'”
A spokeswoman for “Access” had no immediate comment about why the tape did not surface sooner.