In the sort of booking that only counts as a scoop in an America where verifiable, recorded reality is under attack by those in power on a daily basis, Stephen Colbert welcomed former Access Hollywood and Today show host Billy Bush to The Late Show on Monday. After Donald Trump floated the idea last week that that’s not his voice on that “grab ’em by the pussy” boast/confession that would have ended the political career of anyone if this country were a still-functioning democracy, Bush conformed to Colbert that yes, that was Donald Trump on the Access Hollywood bus.
Which is nice and all—especially since Trump himself publicly admitted it was him after the 2005 recording leaked during the 2016 presidential campaign—but, again, anyone not acting like a wild-eyed cult member beholden to the liberating-to-them rhetoric of a misogynist, racist, authoritarian demagogue doesn’t need a disgraced former talking head on a career rehabilitation tour to tell them what incontrovertible truth is. Colbert, to his credit, got the confirmation part of the interview (Bush’s first since Trump’s election) over with right off the bat, before lightly grilling Bush for his complicity in Trump’s sexist tirade.
“I would describe your behavior as boorish, or callow, or something like that,” stated Colbert about Bush’s audible laughter as Trump crudely bragged about using his position as famous reality show self-promoter to cow women into accepting his sexual advances (or assaults). Bush agreed, calling himself “complicit,” although, throughout the interview, Bush continually attempted to edge himself out of the blame zone, and back into employability. “I would have called the FBI if I thought he was detailing a sexual assault,” assured Bush, thus giving Trump cover on what Bush termed Trump’s “Andrew Dice Clay”-esque “crass standup act.” Colbert, again, pressed Bush, saying, “But the camera wasn’t on him.”
All through the segment, Bush wavered between self-pity over his firing (he called having to watch Trump being sworn in while he, on a nine-day “soul-searching retreat” watched the ceremony on television “an unbelievable irony”), and ingratiating condemnations of the pain Trump’s repeated denials of wrongdoing are causing the multiple women who have publicly come forward to accuse Trump of various acts of sexual harassment and assault. Calling the Trump administration’s position that these women are lying “infuriating to me on a personal level,” Bush noted that, with the current wave of powerful men (like Bush’s former Today colleague Matt Lauer) losing their careers over similar allegations, “the women must be believed.” Still, Bush couldn’t help but say that his own firing was a result of, as he claims one of his NBC bosses put it, having “moved a little too quickly.” Colbert, at one point letting Bush’s self-justifying spin stew in uncomfortable silence for a painfully long moment, paraphrased another of Donald Trump’s recorded statements, asking Bush if NBC “moved on you like a bitch,” which at least gave the now publicly contrite Bush more discomfort than we heard him laughingly exhibit when Donald Trump originally used it.