NBC's Today has suspended co-anchor Billy Bush indefinitely, pending "further review" of his involvement with Donald Trump in a 2005 videotape in which Trump, egged on by Bush, made crude comments about women.
A memo to sent to Today staffers Sunday evening by the morning show's producer, Noah Oppenheim, and obtained by a source at NBC News who wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the matter, acknowledged staffers have "all been deeply troubled" by the tape, which surfaced internally Monday but was first published by The Washington Post four days later. The revelation sent shock waves through the presidential campaign and proved an embarrassment to NBC.
"Let me be clear: There is simply no excuse for Billy's language and behavior on that tape," Oppenheim wrote. After telling reporters Saturday that Bush would appear on the show Monday to apologize, the network changed its mind. "NBC has decided to suspend Billy pending further review of this matter," Oppenheim wrote.
The 2005 tape was made when Bush, a nephew of President George H.W. Bush, worked on Access Hollywood. He escorted Trump to a studio for NBC daytime drama Days of Our Lives, where Trump made a cameo appearance. In the tape, the Republican presidential candidate brags about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women who were not his wife. Bush joins in, laughing at some of Trump's comments and later encouraging Arianne Zucker, an actress who greeted them, to hug Trump.
Bush, 44, has been excoriated on his own Facebook page since the tape surfaced. "You are sickening!" one woman wrote.
He joined the show as co-anchor of the 9 a.m. hour only last August, after a dozen years at Access, and moved to New York from Los Angeles. But Today, in a tight race with Good Morning America, can ill afford to anger women viewers who make up the core of its audience at that hour. Defections among viewers upset by 2012's messy dumping of Ann Curry from Today helped give GMA an edge.
Even before this incident, Bush had a rocky start. He was the reporter to whom American swimmer Ryan Lochte lied about being robbed at the Olympics. When Bush later tried to defend Lochte on Today, he was criticized by colleague Al Roker, who is scheduled to fill in for Bush alongside Tamron Hall.
Bush issued a statement Friday apologizing for his actions in the 2005 video, in which he called the actress "hot," adding an expletive.
"I've gotta use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her," Trump said. "You know, I'm automatically attracted to beautiful ... I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything."
"Grab them by the p----. You can do anything," Trump added.
Contributing: The Associated Press