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Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush: Understanding the Trump Tape Controversy

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at App State chapter.

To those of you living under a rock this past two weeks, boy you missed out on a lot.

This has been a pretty tumultuous week for the news anchor, Billy Bush, and it doesn’t appear to be getting any easier. According to news reports, it seems that Bush’s temporary suspension from The Today Show is going to end up being permanent in light of his involvement in what many are calling “Trumpgate.”

Bush’s job at Today was to deliver to the 9am hour – an audience that is nearly 60% female. That became considerably more challenging because of the tape leak when millions of people began watching an endless loop of Bush cheering on Trump as the now Republican Presidential Candidate bragged that his fame allowed him to kiss women and grab their genitalia without prior consent. While Bush was not recorded saying anything to the same caliber as Mr. Trump did, he certainly was not condemning his actions as they giggled together in the back of The Access Hollywood bus like naughty school children.

Bush, however, has apologized for his actions in that tape stating: “Obviously I’m embarrassed and ashamed. It’s no excuse, but this happened 11 years ago — I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along. I’m very sorry.” But many counter that the way that Bush acted when exiting the bus, asking for a hug from Days of Our Lives actress Arianne Zucker for “The Bushy” (yes, folks he called himself “The Bushy” which is embarrassing enough), and then prompting Zucker to choose between Donald and himself, was not simply him “playing along.”

In a statement released Sunday, Ms. Zucker stated: “How we treat one another, whether behind closed doors, locker rooms or face to face, should be done with kindness, dignity, and respect. Unfortunately, there are too many people in power who abuse their position and disregard these simple principles and are rewarded for it.”

Others argue that he should be fired, not only for the crudeness of the conversation, but for hiding this evidence for so long.

An unnamed NBC insider told Page Six that this tape almost certainly constitutes a violation of the “morality clause” of his contract with the network, especially because Bush’s boasting apparently focused on how he had caught Trump “being a real dog.” That was what prompted Access Hollywood to seek out the footage in the first place. Instead of taking responsibility for his actions, Bush violated his journalistic integrity and simply sat on this condemning evidence.

As we await the official decision on Bush, it is hard to ignore the underlying message here. The blatant disrespect for women cannot be dismissed and diminished as locker room talk, simply because that is not an excuse. Language like this promotes misogynism, degradation, and is offensive to women. It should never be spoken, no matter when or where it’s said, or who said it – whether it’s your average joe or the Republican Presidential Candidate.

We need to hold each other to a higher standard than this, and if someone falls short of that, we need to hold them accountable for their words and the consequences of their actions.

Nancy O’Dell, Access Hollywood host, and subject of some of Trump and Bush’s comments, said it best when she stated: “Politics aside, I’m saddened that these comments still exist in our society at all,” she wrote. “When I heard the comments yesterday, it was disappointing to hear such objectification of women. The conversation needs to change because no female, no person, should be the subject of such crass comments, whether or not cameras are rolling. Everyone deserves respect no matter the setting or gender. As a woman who has worked very hard to establish her career, and as a mom, I feel I must speak out with the hope that as a society we will always strive to be better.”

Let’s strive to be better.