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Billy Bush: “Of course” the Access Hollywood tape was Trump

The former NBC host is stepping back into the spotlight to bust Trump’s Access Hollywood tape conspiracy theory.

Billy Bush interviewing Donald Trump
Donald Trump (R) is interviewed by Billy Bush of Access Hollywood at a Celebrity Apprentice Red Carpet Event at Trump Tower on January 20, 2015 in New York City.
Rob Kim/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covered business and economics for Vox and wrote the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

Former Access Hollywood host Billy Bush is stepping back into the spotlight to state the obvious that it is indeed President Donald Trump who can be heard on a now-infamous 2005 tape bragging about sexual assault.

“He said it. ‘Grab ‘em by the pussy,’” Bush wrote in a New York Times op-ed published Sunday evening. “Of course he said it. And we laughed along, without a single doubt that this was hypothetical hot air from America’s highest-rated bloviator.”

The op-ed lands amid reports Trump has begun to suggest in private conversation the tape was not him. When the tape was first made public in October 2016, then-candidate Trump admitted it was him and apologized, dismissing his comments as “locker room talk.”

The tape features Trump bragging about the privileges of being a famous man around women. “They let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy,” he says.

The 2005 recording took place as Trump traveled in a bus with Access Hollywood host Billy Bush to meet soap opera actress Arianne Zucker. As they approach, Bush calls her “hot as shit,” and Trump jokes he should “use some Tic Tacs” in case he starts kissing her. “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait,” he says.

Bush in his Times op-ed wrote that he and the seven other men on the bus with the former reality television star assumed they were listening to a “crass standup act” and didn’t think what Trump said was real. “We now know better,” he wrote.

Bush, who was fired by NBC for his role in the tape, said he recently sat down to read an article from around the time the tape surfaced that reviews the firsthand accounts from about 20 women about sexual harassment and assault from Trump. He described parallels between the allegations and what Trump described on the Access Hollywood bus:

Some of what Natasha Stoynoff, Rachel Crooks, Jessica Leeds and Jill Harth alleged involved forceful kissing. Ms. Harth said he pushed her up against a wall, with his hands all over her, trying to kiss her.

“He was relentless,” she said. “I didn’t know how to handle it.” Her story makes the whole “better use some Tic Tacs” and “just start kissing them” routine real. I believe her.

Kristin Anderson said that Mr. 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 pussy” routine real. I believe her.

Trump “is currently indulging in some revisionist history,” Bush wrote. “This has hit a raw nerve in me. I can only imagine how it has reopened the wounds of the women who came forward with their stories about him, and did not receive enough attention. This country is currently trying to reconcile itself to years of power abuse and sexual misconduct. Its leader is wantonly poking the bear.”

Bush will also appear on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Monday night.

Apart from Trump’s reported private musings about the tape, the White House has publicly stood behind Trump’s original apology last year. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a press briefing last week the president “hasn’t changed his position” on the tape.

As more and more high-profile men are accused of sexual harassment — and paying the price — questions are circling back to how Trump, who has faced multiple accusations of harassment and was caught on the Access Hollywood tape admitting to doing so, should account for his actions. When asked about the wave of exposure of sexual harassment and abuse incidents recently, he said, apparently without irony, “I think it’s very, very good for women, and I’m very happy a lot of these things are coming out. I'm very happy it's being exposed.”

Except, apparently, in the case of Alabama’s US Senate candidate Roy Moore, who Trump endorsed on Twitter Monday morning, looking past multiple sexual misconduct allegations against the former Alabama chief judge.

Just before Thanksgiving he said Moore “totally denies” the allegations. So did Trump.

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