Former NBC host Billy Bush penned an op-ed criticizing Donald Trump for questioning the legitimacy of the leaked 2005 Access Hollywood footage where the then-Apprentice star bragged about sexually assaulting women.
“He said it. ‘Grab ’em by the pussy.’ Of course he said it,” Bush wrote in the New York Times. Bush’s op-ed comes less than a week after the newspaper reported that Trump had told at least one U.S. senator and his advisors that the Access Hollywood footage was “not authentic.”
“President Trump is currently indulging in some revisionist history, reportedly telling allies, including at least one United States senator, that the voice on the tape is not his. This has hit a raw nerve in me,” Bush wrote.
“I can only imagine how it has reopened the wounds of the women who came forward with their stories about him, and did not receive enough attention. This country is currently trying to reconcile itself to years of power abuse and sexual misconduct. Its leader is wantonly poking the bear.”
In the aftermath of the leaked 2005 footage, Bush was suspended and then pushed out of his high-profile hosting gig at NBC and Trump was elected president.
Access Hollywood also stated on air November 27th that the Trump footage was “very real.” “Let us make this perfectly clear. The tape is very real,” Access Hollywood host Natalie Morales said. “Remember his excuse at the time was ‘locker-room talk.’ He said every one of those words.”
In Bush’s op-ed, the former Today co-host expressed regret that he used his “strong rapport” with Trump, then a ratings draw for NBC thanks to The Apprentice, to further his own career, as well as his own conduct in the leaked footage.
“And we laughed along, without a single doubt that this was hypothetical hot air from America’s highest-rated bloviator,” Bush wrote. “Along with Donald Trump and me, there were seven other guys present on the bus at the time, and every single one of us assumed we were listening to a crass standup act. He was performing. Surely, we thought, none of this was real. We now know better.”
Bush then listed some of Trump’s alleged victims – like Kristen Anderson, Natasha Stoynoff, Rachel Crooks, Jessica Leeds and Jill Harth – who accuse Trump of acting in the aggressive behavior that he joked about on the Access Hollywood bus.
“This moment in American life is no doubt painful for many women. It is especially painful for the women who have come forward, at the risk of forever being linked to one event, this man, this president of the United States,” Bush wrote.
“To these women: I will never know the fear you felt or the frustration of being summarily dismissed and called a liar, but I do know a lot about the anguish of being inexorably linked to Donald Trump. You have my respect and admiration. You are culture warriors at the forefront of necessary change.”