On Sunday, May 21, Billy Bush finally came forward and spoke out about the infamous "grab her by the pussy" tape from 2005 that was leaked seven months ago, in which Bush joked around and did nothing to discourage now-President Donald Trump from discussing treatment of women that clearly qualified as sexual assault. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Bush talked about how devastating the leak was to him and to his family, talked about his future plans to rejoin broadcast media, and said he was "sorry."
Frankly, though, Billy Bush can keep it.
Not that there is much to keep in the first place; following his apology statement just after the incident in October, not once in this interview did Billy Bush outright apologize to the American people for what he said, except in recounting his apology to one of his three daughters ("I have no answer for that that's any good. I am really sorry."). He also seems fraught with worn out excuses for the behavior. He claims that he told his now 12-year-old daughter that it was "Dad in a bad moment a long time ago," a line that harks to a lot of other excuses men have used for this kind of behavior in the past — namely, the "I was younger then" narrative that a lot of men employ, as well as men who seem only to be able to view harm to women through the lens of fatherhood or marriage. Let me be clear, in case there was any doubt: Billy Bush was 33 years old at the time of the incident, and very much a father to daughters when it occurred. The excuses are unwarranted enough on their own, but made more ridiculous by that.
But the way Bush hides behind excuses is nothing compared to the way he handled the incident itself: when he is asked about the moment in question, he repeatedly said that he wished he had changed the subject.
"Looking back on what was said on that bus, I wish I had changed the topic. I wish I had said: 'Does anyone want water?' or 'It looks like it's gonna rain.' He liked TV and competition. I could've said, 'Can you believe the ratings on whatever?' I didn't have the strength of character to do it."
Billy Bush, you and I must have very different definitions of what "strength of character" is. To me, "strength of character" would have been pointing out to Donald Trump that the things he was bragging about constituted as sexual assault, and were deeply inappropriate and disrespectful to women. To me, "strength of character" would be acting as an ally to women in the inherently sexist world they were already born into by protecting them on the most basic, important, effortless level — by pointing out to one of their aggressors that he is wrong.
"... I'm out of the coulda-shoulda-woulda game; beyond that I wish I had changed the topic on the bus," said Bush later in the interview, reiterating the already problematic "solution".
What worries me the most about this interview, though, is the reason why it happened in the first place: "But I always had a nervous energy through these situations because he also decided a lot of times from day to day, moment to moment, who [Trump] liked, who was in and who was out, and my job was to remain in. I needed to be in, or maybe I'd be out," said Bush.
And therein lies not the root of the problem, but the ground it was allowed to plant itself in the first place: men so concerned about being accepted by other men that they don't consider who they are hurting in the process. Billy Bush may take great pains to separate himself from what Trump said, because it appears that he doesn't think he himself is the problem — but Bush's actions in that tape demonstrated that he is one among many who gives that problem a microphone and amplifies it. The sad truth is, the only difference between Billy Bush and "good men" who want "in" with men like Donald Trump is that Billy Bush just happened to be the one who got caught.
Billy Bush, you said that after your exposure you were so "depressed, bloated, and miserable" that you went on a retreat. Do you know what women can't go on a retreat from? The constant, barraging, ridiculous threat to our wellbeing from men. Not just the alleged pussy grabber you didn't discourage, but the cat callers, the abusive partners, the rapists, the actual, literal murderers, many of whom feel justified in these acts of violence because a woman dared to reject them. It is as minor as the creep who demands your phone number and then makes sure you gave him the right one while you're still standing there to as blatant as the man who pins a woman to a wall in a dark alley on her way home. Do you think that the words you said — or namely, the words you didn't say — somehow did not contribute to that? Because they did. You may not be the "problem," Billy Bush, but you gave the problem legs to stand on. You can ignore the reality of rape culture all you want, but it is people like you who define the edges of it, who give men like Donald Trump free reign to do what they want without consequences.
You claim that the incident made you a "better, fuller man," Billy Bush. But I see a lot of words about your experience and how hard this was for you — see a lot of words about you meditating, going to some Tony Robbins seminar to talk about yourself, and walking on fire (which, OK) — but very few words about how you turned that sentiment into action. What have you done for us women lately, Billy? For what should we and your three daughters be grateful? Have you donated to Planned Parenthood to protect our health? Have you stood with us in our marches to protect our rights? Have you said a single word against Trump since the video leaked, or are you still, as you said in this interview, "never [making] politics and prior votes public knowledge"?
For what it's worth, Bush, this is no longer a political issue; it's a human rights issue that extends not just to women, but to every vulnerable and minority population in the country. In the meantime, while I see no evidence that you are "fuller" or "better," Billy Bush, I will concede that you were good for one thing and one thing only: proving that a man like Donald Trump could have his core utterly exposed in the worst way, and still be elected into one of the most powerful positions in the world. I don't know the rest of what you told your daughters about the incident, but I know what I will someday tell mine — that I watched that happen with a horror that will never fade in time, and then worked every damn day of my life to make sure that it never happened again.