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NBC Suspends Billy Bush For His Role On Trump Video


NBC News has indefinitely suspended Billy Bush, co-host of the "Today" show. The now infamous 11-year-old video released last week that revealed Bush engaging in coarse, degrading talk about women with Donald Trump, that's what it's all about. At the time, Bush was co-host of "Access Hollywood."


BILLY BUSH: Sheesh, your girl's hot as [expletive] - in the purple.


BUSH: Yes. Yes, the Donald has scored.

MONTAGNE: The footage has raised questions about NBC News itself. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik is in New York, here to talk to us. Good morning.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: OK, we've heard a lot about what Donald Trump said. We just heard a bit of his exchange with Billy Bush, who, for those who haven't heard, is a cousin of former candidate Jeb Bush. What else did Billy Bush have to say on that recording?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, he was rating women, as you heard there. He was talking not quite, but almost as coarsely as Donald Trump was in that. And let's be clear. In this moment, he's on a tour bus on a studio lot in California. This was an NBC production through and through - NBC celebrity news show, for which Billy Bush, at that time, was a correspondent, was tracking an NBC soap opera, promoting the appearance of an NBC reality star in Donald Trump. And here's what Billy Bush said as he introduced Donald Trump to the actress that he had just physically rated moments before.


BUSH: How about a little hug for the Donald? He just got off the bus.

ARIANNE ZUCKER: Would you like a little hug, darling?

TRUMP: OK, absolutely. Melania said this was OK...

BUSH: And a little hug for the Bushy (ph)? I just got of the bus.

ZUCKER: (Laughter) Bushy, Bushy.

BUSH: Here we go.

FOLKENFLIK: Bushy. So right there, at a workplace scenario, Billy Bush is basically sort of inciting physical contact with Donald Trump and the woman - and himself - that they had just physically rated and scored, who was a co-worker.

MONTAGNE: Now, how did NBC get this video? Because there's been talk of why or if Billy Bush didn't bring it up months ago.

FOLKENFLIK: And that's a very good question. Certainly if he was acting as a reporter, he's only some weeks into his tenure as co-host of the "Today" show on NBC News. But, you know, if he's acting as a reporter and a journalist, either for "Access Hollywood" or for the "Today" show, he says, look, I was on the air with him a number of times. He served also as a host of the Miss Universe for Donald Trump's productions. He didn't act that way.

What they say at NBC is that, in fact, "Access Hollywood" started to look into its own archives after the Associated Press had reported women who had worked with Donald Trump on "The Apprentice," also an NBC show, had said that Donald Trump had said inappropriate things on that show. But NBC doesn't own "The Apprentice." That's owned by Mark Burnett Productions. So it doesn't control those tapes. "Access Hollywood" went back into its archives early this week, and this - last week, I should say. And this is what they found.

MONTAGNE: And has there been fallout inside NBC News?

FOLKENFLIK: I think there's been two kinds of fallout. One kind of fallout is that journalists are very dismayed that it took The Washington Post to break this story and for NBC to take so long to review this legally. And secondly, there's real anger at the idea of Billy Bush sort of serving as a colleague, even if these comments were 11 years ago. The question of his fitness was in doubt. And don't forget, "Today" show is really aimed at women.

MONTAGNE: And just quickly, I have to say I was shocked Saturday morning, when I picked up The New York Times from my porch - and yes, I get it on the weekends - and saw, on the front page, the F word, the P word in the newspaper. All that's, you know, news that's fit to print.

FOLKENFLIK: You know, it's posed all kinds of challenges, particularly for broadcasters such as ourselves. Different news organizations have made different decisions. NPR has decided not to broadcast those words on the air.

As NPR's media critic, I'm not at the table making those decisions. I happen to disagree with it. I think it's newsworthy for a leading presidential candidate who, at times, has been within the margin of error. But, you know, there's a lot of sources of news out there. And people certainly, online at npr.org and other places, can find it.

MONTAGNE: David Folkenflik, thanks very much.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.
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