On Friday, a week after he welcomed comedian Kathy Griffin, Real Time host Bill Maher hosted another celebrity in rehabilitation mode: Billy Bush, whose participation in President Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tape cost him his job at NBC News and reputation.
The former Today host, who took the first steps toward resuming public life with a New York Times op-ed (in which he confirmed Trump’s comments) and a Late Show visit in December 2017, spoke of the self-help work he’d done.
He recounted the weekend of Trump’s inauguration, which he spent at a retreat in northern California where he was “like the guy from Ohio who knew too little“, which he described as “the beginning of just getting over it.”
He asked Maher, “Do you ever wonder what happens to you if it everything went away: the big career, the big show, the HBO, the whole thing?”
The host, who got in hot water last year for using the ‘n’ word on his show, retorted, “Oh, it’s flashed before my eyes many times.”
Bush laughed, noting he remembered that incident “right when I said it.”
Bush noted that he’d hosted the Trump-owned Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants four times, during which “Trump would come backstage … reviewing the guard like Kim Jong-Un reviews the military. He’d come back with the tie that’s too long — past the belt — but yeah, I think we know about Donald Trump. We know who the guy is.”
Maher also praised Bush for the time he called out Trump for lying about the ratings for The Apprentice.
“He’d been saying it’s No. 1 forever and finally, I’d had enough,” he explained. “I told him, ‘Wait a minute, you haven’t been No. 1 for like five years — not in any category, not in any demo.’ He goes, ‘Did you see last Thursday? Last Thursday, 18-49, the last five minutes.’ “
He added that “Later, when the cameras were off, he said, ‘Billy, look, you just tell them and they believe it. That’s it: you just tell them and they believe. They just do.”
Maher sighed, “And that’s where we are. He can do that to America now. It’s what he does all the time: he just says it and they believe it.”
Maher also wondered whether Trump had ever apologized to Bush in the past year and a half since the Access Hollywood tape went public.
“Did the phone ring?” Bush said. “In fairness, he didn’t leak the tape, but I didn’t want him to call. I don’t want to talk about this. I haven’t spoken to him in three or four years.”
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