It's unusual to hear anyone defend recently suspended Today show co-anchor Billy Bush these days. But on Monday, Bush's friend and former Access Hollywood co-host Kit Hoover told the viewing audience that although the now-infamous tape with Bush and Donald Trump is "inexcusable," he's still a good person.
Bush's reputation took a hit over the weekend after an unearthed 2005 video showed him laughing on a bus with now-GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, who was making lewd comments about women. The men's comments were captured on a hot mic while filming a segment for Access Hollywood, which Bush hosted at the time.
There has been a lot of debate about Bush's role in the video, which was first published by The Washington Post on Friday; Bush's Facebook page was flooded over the weekend by disgusted viewers. In the video, Bush was heard joking around with Trump, who boasted about trying to sleep with a married woman and said that as a celebrity, you could do anything you want to women, including "grab them by the p****." When the two men saw actress Arianne Zucker waiting outside to film the segment, Bush exclaimed, "Your girl is hot as s***!" and added, "Yes, the Donald has scored!" as they both talked about her legs.
After the video surfaced, Bush released an apology saying he was "embarrassed and ashamed" and noting that "it's no excuse, but this happened 11 years ago - I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along."
On Monday afternoon's Access Hollywood Live (a spinoff of the flagship show), hosts Hoover and Natalie Morales discussed Sunday's presidential debate and segued into the video, discussing reactions and reading Bush's apology on air. Morales, a former Today anchor, replaced Bush on Access Hollywood this summer; Hoover co-hosted the show with Bush from 2010 through this year.
WARNING: The below video contains graphic language
"Kit, I know this has been a tough time because Billy is a good friend to us," Morales said.
"I don't even know where to begin with all of this," Hoover said, adding that she was at home with her 14-year-old daughter when the tape was revealed. "The tapes are inexcusable. But I'm watching this tape and I'm watching this person - those tapes were a decade ago and it was seven minutes of someone's life. And all I can tell you is what I know and the person that I sat next to for the last six years, and that person for me is a totally different person."
On Sunday night, Bush was suspended indefinitely by Today, where he has been since August as a co-anchor of the show's 9 a.m. ET hour. He's already a polarizing presence, given his viral argument with Al Roker about the Ryan Lochte incident during the Olympics this summer.
Hoover, still friends with Bush, defended her former colleague. "He always treated me with kindness, such respect. He treated me like an equal from Day One," she added. "And I think anybody that watched our show at home and saw us together knew how much he rooted for me, and (was) really always in my corner, and there's really a teamwork with both of us out there."
"It was just devastating to watch how all of this has unfolded. The Billy that I know, and that a lot of people would say has the biggest heart of anybody - and he is a good person," she concluded.
Morales also briefly weighed in, saying that Bush was one of the first people to call and congratulate her when she landed the Access Hollywood gig this year, and offered advice about the job and her move from New York to Los Angeles. "He said, 'I can't think of a better person sitting next to you,'" she said to Hoover.
Later in the show, guest Monica Potter brought goody bags of facial oils for the hosts. "I did bring a bag for Billy, too. Tell him I love him," the actress said, noting that he's a friend from a mutual charity organization. "I'm supporting him as well."