Who Is Billy Bush?
Television host Billy Bush was born in New York City in October 1971. He started working for radio stations in New England and Washington, D.C., which led to joining Access Hollywood in 2001 as a correspondent. There, his lively interview style set him apart from other entertainment reporters, and he became a co-anchor in 2004. In May 2016, Bush announced he was leaving Access Hollywood to join the cast of the Today show. That October, he was fired from Today after the leak of a decade-old tape in which he participated in a vulgar conversation about women with Donald Trump.
Billy Bush was born William Hall Bush on October 13, 1971, in New York City, to Josephine and Jonathan Bush. Bush and his brother Jonathan grew up on New York’s Upper East Side. After high school, he headed north for college and attended Colby College, a liberal arts school in Waterville, Maine. There, Bush served as the men's lacrosse team captain and took an interest in the college radio station during his senior year.
In 1994, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in international studies and government, a fitting major for someone in his family: Bush is cousins with former U.S. President George W. Bush and Florida governor Jeb Bush, and is the nephew of former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush.
Politics and government didn’t sway Billy Bush; instead, the time he spent as a DJ for Colby’s student radio station led to a job after graduation with a radio station in New Hampshire. He sold ads by day and took to the airwaves as a DJ by night. It was there that Bush set his sights on a broadcast career. He made a demo reel of his radio work and began sending it out to radio stations in hopes of taking that next step up the career ladder.
Before long, Bush landed a new DJ gig on a classic rock station in Washington, D.C., where he soon moved to host the station’s daily talk show. Bush was a natural, and his skills earned him the Washington Air Award for emerging talent. With that success, Bush was offered his own morning show on a new Top 40 D.C. station, a show that was aptly named Bush League.
The show was a running gag reel, and Bush’s personality and on-air antics ensured that he made a name for himself with the morning-drive crowd. But Bush ran out of steam, and he was let go the same week his cousin George W. Bush took office as U.S. president.
'Access Hollywood '
Bush moved back to New York to work as a freelancer for the local show Today in New York. However, it was a 2001 appearance on CNN that took him to the next level; noticed on air, he was quickly hired by NBC for Access Hollywood and became the new East Coast correspondent. Also during this period, Bush was a correspondent for The Today Show, hosted a failed revival of the classic game show Let’s Make a Deal and took on the co-hosting duties for the Miss Universe pageant for three years.
But it would be Access Hollywood that made Bush a household name, as his easy demeanor and charming smile made him a star on the celebrity interview circuit. Over his decade and a half with Access Hollywood, Bush interviewed every celebrity imaginable while covering all major Hollywood awards shows, such as the Golden Globes, Grammys and Academy Awards. He also reported from the Olympic games in Greece, Italy and Beijing, and was part of the NBC team that covered the British royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Meanwhile, Bush stayed in touch with his radio roots with such nationally broadcast shows as The Billy Bush Show and PopCrush.
'Today' Gig and Donald Trump Comments
In May 2016, Bush left Access Hollywood to join the cast of the Today show. In August, he joined the show during its coverage of the Summer Olympics in Rio.
In October, Bush was embroiled in a controversy involving Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump: The Washington Post released a 2005 recording of Trump speaking to Bush, then co-anchor of Access Hollywood, about kissing and groping women, and trying to have sex with television personality Nancy O’Dell, who was married at the time. The three-minute recording captured the vulgar conversation between Trump and Bush as they were preparing to meet soap opera actress Arianne Zucker for a segment of the show. "I’ve gotta use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump said in the recording which was caught on a microphone that had not been turned off. “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."
The controversy broke just two days prior to Trump's second presidential debate with Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, and the backlash was immediate with angry comments posted on the Today show and Bush’s Facebook pages. Bush released a statement saying he was “embarrassed and ashamed” about his part in the conversation. "It's no excuse, but this happened 11 years ago — I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along. I'm very sorry," he said.
The Today show suspended Bush indefinitely pending “further review” of his involvement in the recording. On October 17, 2016, NBC announced that Bush was leaving the show after reaching a settlement with the network. Today senior vice president Noah Oppenheim sent out a memo to show staff saying: "Billy Bush will be leaving the Today show's 9 a.m. hour, effective today. While he was a new member of the Today team, he was a valued colleague and longtime member of the broader NBC family. We wish him success as he goes forward."
Bush said in a statement: "I am deeply grateful for the conversations I've had with my daughters, and for all of the support from family, friends and colleagues. I look forward to what lies ahead."
After lying low for more than a year, Bush resurfaced with an op-ed article in The New York Times on December 3, 2017, titled "Yes, Donald Trump, You Said That." In the piece, the former host refuted recent reports of the president denying the voice was his on the Access Hollywood tapes, recalling the seven other men on the bus listening and laughing along. Bush also referred to the women who came forth with sexual harassment charges against Trump as "culture warriors at the forefront of necessary change," and called for constructive dialogue between men and women to establish proper barriers at the workplace. "Today is about reckoning and reawakening," he wrote, "and I hope it reaches all the guys on the bus."
Billy Bush and his wife, Sydney Davis, were married from 1998 until announcing their separation in September 2017. They have three daughters together: Josephine, Mary and Lillie.
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