‘Of course he said it’: Billy Bush counters Trump’s pussy tape claims

Billy Bush has pushed back against reports that Donald Trump believes the Access Hollywood tape was a hoax. Writing in the New York Times on Sunday, the television host says: “Of course he said it.”

Bush, who was recorded listening to Trump making lewd comments about grabbing women “by the pussy”, said that recent reports that the US president was denying the remarks “hit a raw nerve in me”.

He also said that he believed at the time that Trump’s remarks were “a crass standup act … Surely, we thought, none of this was real”. Bush added that after reading the accounts of many of the nearly 20 women who accused Trump of sexual misconduct, he now believes “the ‘grab ’em by the pussy’ routine [was] real.”

The tape, which was published by the Washington Post on 7 October 2016 sent shockwaves through American politics. In addition to boasting about grabbing female genitalia, Trump said “when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything”. Although a number of major Republican figures withdrew their support for Trump after the tape was published, he managed to overcome the revelations and win the presidency despite losing the popular vote.

Although Trump apologized for his remarks at the time, there have since been several reports that he has told others that he doesn’t believe the tape is real.

The New York Times op-ed marks a rare return to the spotlight for Bush, who was fired from his position as a co-host at the Today Show after the tape was released in October 2016. He has since left the public eye and has taken up pursuits such as yoga and mediation. Bush is also scheduled to be interviewed by late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert on Monday.

His intervention comes at a moment has been increased focus on allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. A number of prominent men in politics, media and the arts have faced signification allegations including producer Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey and television host Matt Lauer.

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