On Friday’s episode of “Real Time With Bill Maher,” Billy Bush was bluntly honest about why he stood by laughing during Donald Trump’s infamous “grab ‘em by the p—-” rant, seen in a video leaked in late 2016.
“I’d have had to explain how I lost Trump, the big fish,” the former “Access Hollywood” host said.
Appearing as the mid-show guest on “Real Time,” during what Maher called “my month to rehabilitate people who should not have been made to go away,” Bush explained that he was “a different person” 13 years ago, and intimidated because of Trump’s importance as a ratings winner for NBC.
The leaked video in which Trump bragged about his aggressive behavior toward women was recorded in 2005, a time when ratings for Trump’s show “The Apprentice” were close to 20 million per episode. “I spent a lot of time with Trump back then,” Bush said. “I was the entertainment correspondent for NBC, [but] he was the cash cow.”
For someone with that kind of financial impact on the network, “you sort of meet them where they are,” Bush said. “And you know how he is — he’s really volatile.” Bush said he was afraid if he cut Trump off or argued with him, he’d be fired, or worse, would cause Trump to quit the network.
Asked by Maher how he would have handled the situation if he had to do it over again, said Bush: “I probably would have just changed the topic.”
Bush also admitted that things were “s—ty” after the video was leaked in October 2016, leading NBC to fire him from his gig co-hosting “Today.” “You got order in your life and all of a sudden, in an instant there’s chaos.”
Bush was grilled considerably harder by Maher’s panel guests than by Maher himself. Comedian Pete Dominick told Bush that he “could have, you should have, you didn’t” stand up to Trump.
“In the future,” Dominick continued, “I hope you will.”
Bush admitted he “was a grown man,” but said in his defense that “it was 13 years ago, I settled into my job, I grew into myself, I became a different person. Not that I need to convince you.”
As for Trump himself, Bush said it’s pretty much exactly what people think. He related a time when he called out Trump for misrepresenting later-season ratings for “The Apprentice.” Trump insisted on camera that the show was enormously popular. But once the camera was turned off, he said “Billy, look, you just tell them and they believe it. They just do.”