With a weekend op-ed in the New York Times and an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Monday night, former Access Hollywood and Today Show host Billy Bush is back in the spotlight almost 14 months after getting fired from NBC following the release of the Donald Trump Access Hollywood tape. The official story is that Bush was coaxed back by the need to respond to rumors that President Donald Trump has been telling people that it wasn’t his voice on that tape (despite saying, at the time, “I said it, I was wrong, I apologize.”). It’s cynical to assume that there’s something else behind Bush’s re-emergence and wrong to dismiss the value of Bush’s words, which have drawn praise from one of Trump’s accusers. But in light of recent events, it feels alright to be a little cynical too.
Maybe Bush feels emboldened to tiptoe back into public life following the fall of Matt Lauer and others. Maybe he feels like he has a right to seize on an opportunity to remind people that, by comparison, his sins — laughing off the now President’s boasts about possible sexual assault — aren’t as bad as exposing oneself or making unwanted advances. I don’t know and I don’t know that it really matters. It’s hard to deny that it’s bizarre that Bush’s career suffered from the tape and Trump’s did not, but that doesn’t mean the moment is right for a Billy Bush comeback tour.
Allegations of sexual misconduct have knocked several powerful men off their pillars, revealing clear dysfunction in America’s corporate culture and social fabric while the #MeToo movement has shown that this isn’t, simply, a Hollywood problem.
To some, all of this has come as a knee-buckling shock. To others, the shock has surely come from seeing mainstream media coverage, sustained public outrage, and actual consequences for behavior that has been often whispered about but rarely dealt with.
As Trump proves, however, the purge has been far from universal. Some have denied the validity of the allegations against them, others have tried to outlast the outrage, and then there are those that exist in a grey area. To name a few notable figures whose alleged past misdeeds have popped up with little tangible consequence, Dustin Hoffman, Matthew Weiner, and others have been accused of harassment (or worse) but they haven’t suffered more than a dent to their reputations (if that). This while many others have lost their jobs and seen their future prospects thrown into question.