In the wake of Matt Lauer‘s termination from NBC for alleged inappropriate sexual behavior, his onetime colleague Billy Bush is opening up about the circumstances surrounding his own firing from the network after footage leaked of him engaging in an explicit conversation with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“He said it. ‘Grab ’em by the p—y,’” Bush writes in a New York Times op-ed published Sunday. “Of course he said it Along with Donald Trump and me, there were seven other guys present on the bus at the time, and every single one of us assumed we were listening to a crass standup act. He was performing. Surely, we thought, none of this was real.”
“We now know better,” he adds.
Bush’s comment come after the New York Times alleged that Trump had recently claimed that the infamous tape was fabricated. When the tape first came to light in October 2016, Trump, 71, apologized for his language and called the conversation “locker room talk.” He denied all claims of sexual misconduct.
Trump made lewd comments about allegedly groping and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation with Bush, who worked for Access Hollywood at the time, that was caught on a hot microphone as the two prepared for a segment for the entertainment show.
The exchange took place as Trump and Bush were on board an Access Hollywood bus, arriving on the set of Days of Our Lives to tape a segment about a cameo Trump was filming for the soap opera. Listeners can hear Trump tell Bush, “And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything.”
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In his New York Times piece, Bush cites the allegations against Trump made by Rachel Crooks, Jessica Leeds, Jill Harth, Kristin Anderson and PEOPLE’s own Natasha Stoynoff. (Trump has vehemently denied all allegations of sexual assault.)
Anderson, Bush writes, alleged that Trump “reached under her skirt and ‘touched her vagina through her underwear’ while they were at a New York nightclub in the 1990s. That makes the ‘grab ’em by the p—y’ routine real. I believe her.”
Bush also acknowledges how his relationship with Trump, then a business magnate and reality star, skyrocketed his career.
“My segments with Donald Trump when I was just a correspondent were part of the reason I got promoted,” he says, adding, “Was I acting out of self-interest? You bet I was. Was I alone? Far from it. With Mr. Trump’s outsized viewership back in 2005, everybody from Billy Bush on up to the top brass on the 52nd floor had to stroke the ego of the big cash cow along the way to higher earnings.”
Bush says he never supported Trump’s run for president and that his requests to interview him as candidate were denied.
“To these women: I will never know the fear you felt or the frustration of being summarily dismissed and called a liar, but I do know a lot about the anguish of being inexorably linked to Donald Trump,” he writes. “You have my respect and admiration. You are culture warriors at the forefront of necessary change.”