Billy Bush’s future with ‘Today’ is uncertain.
After being suspended following the leaked conversation with Donald Trump, highly-placed sources are saying that his suspension is looking more like a firing.
“He will never be on the show again,” an on-air source said Sunday night, reflecting what staffers are saying behind the scenes.
A second source at the network confirmed Monday that his return is unlikely.
“Today” co-host Savannah Guthrie briefly told viewers about Bush’s suspension on Monday morning.
The sudden change came amid a chorus of calls for disciplinary action against Bush over his vulgar 2005 conversation with Donald Trump that was caught on tape and revealed on Friday.
“He’s suspended or perhaps fired for what he said. The other guy’s running, still, to be the head of the free world,” CNN media analyst Bill Carter said on Monday’s “New Day.”
NBC sources initially said Bush was not being disciplined and that he would be in his usual spot as co-host of the “Today” show’s 9 a.m. hour on Monday morning.
As late as Sunday morning, one of the sources was saying that Bush would use Monday’s broadcast to reiterate the apology he made Friday.
But on Sunday afternoon, senior NBC executives made the decision to bench Bush on Monday, effectively reprimanding him.
A couple of hours later, the executive in charge of “Today,” Noah Oppenheim, said in an internal memo that the executives had decided to go even further and suspend Bush.
“I know we’ve all been deeply troubled by the revelations of the past 48 hours,” Oppenheim wrote.
“Let me be clear — there is simply no excuse for Billy’s language and behavior on that tape,” he wrote. “NBC has decided to suspend Billy, pending further review of this matter.”
Before the memo was released, the on-air source said staffers were in the dark, stuck refreshing Twitter to find out what was going on with Bush.
The suspension was a stunning turn of events. The “Today” show recently made a multi-million-dollar bet on Bush, relocating him from Los Angeles to New York and making him a co-host.
But the taped 2005 conversation between Bush and Trump has upended the careers of both men.
Trump’s vulgar and aggressive comments about women, alluding to sexual assault, caused some Republican leaders to retract their endorsements of him.
Bush played along and joked with Trump, even while Trump talked about trying to sleep with one of Bush’s colleagues.
At the time the video was recorded, Bush was a co-host of NBC’s entertainment show “Access Hollywood.” Now he is a key player on the “Today” show, the profit engine of NBC News. Until Friday, some observers believed he was being groomed to take over for Matt Lauer someday.
Word is that before the Washington Post leaked the tapes, NBC planned to release them after editing Billy’s part of the conversation out.
“They could have released the tape and edited him out,” the source says of the individual that leaked the footage. “That was the plan — they were trying to approve it and then someone leaked it. That’s what Access Hollywoodeventually did and they played it … but it was already out,” the source says and adds, “If they wanted to protect him, they could have edited it out which they did on the final Access piece that aired on Friday, but they left it in when it was leaked.”