Double Standard? NBC Employs Trump, Bush For Years After Lewd 2005 Exchange

The fallout from the Trump’s lewd video continues to impact NBC. CNN’s Brian Stelter reported on Oct. 11, that a source from NBC’s Today said host Billy Bush’s firing is imminent and a matter of “when,” not “if.”

Neither Trump nor Bush were forced by the network to leave in 2005 for the explicit conversation. NBC continued to work with Trump for nearly a decade and eventually promoted Bush from Access Hollywood to Today in 2016. But when the video went public, NBC quickly suspended Bush, just as it had cut ties with Trump after controversial comments in July 2015.

The Washington Post released video on Oct. 7, of then-Access Hollywood anchor Billy Bush “goading” Trump in a lewd conversation about women that included references to kissing women without asking them, and grabbing women by their genitals. NBC executive Noah Oppenheim told his staff that he was “troubled” by the exchange, according to The New York Times.

The Times reported on Oct. 9, that Oppenheim said “there’s simply no excuse for Billy’s language and behavior on that tape.”

NBC News also derided Trump’s 2005 comments after the Post published the tape. Nightly News described Trump’s comments as “vulgar” and “demeaning” toward women on Oct. 8, and showed several politicians condemning either Trump or his comments.

But the network didn’t end its relationship with Trump until nearly a decade later when he made what NBC described as “derogatory” comments about Mexican immigrants.

Less than five months after NBC said it ended its business relationship with him, Trump hosted NBC's Saturday Night Live on Nov. 7, 2015. That appearance came after he won heightened media attention and consistently beat other Republican presidential candidates in polls.

NBC’s business ties with Trump created an incentive for the network to polish his public image. MRC Business researched NBC’s decade-long relationship with Trump, and found that from 2004-2015, the network’s Trump coverage was overwhelmingly and consistently positive.  

MRC Business found only 15 stories (out of 335) on Trump’s business failures compared to 320 stories promoting him as a businessman, his businesses and his shows.

That relationship was also fraught with ethical failures by the network. For example, NBC failed to disclose its relationship with Trump in several stories about his businesses. And in 2011, Trump himself told Today anchor Matt Lauer, “You happen to like me because I have a very successful show on your network.”

Bush praised Trump, and on Nov. 3, 2004, he dubbed Trump “the next President of the United States.”

Bush took Trump to the polls on Election Day in 2004, and even told a man to write Trump in on his ballot. “Write him in! Write him in!” Bush told a man. Before Bush urged him to write Trump in on his ballot, NBC played audio of the man asking Trump “Why don’t you run?”

Trump and Bush toured several polling stations that day, as Trump couldn’t find his designated station. Bush asked a poll worker, “How many people are writing in Donald Trump today, do you know?” The poll worker said she didn’t but that she would be the first one to do so.

Bush also told a voter that his vote was “one vote” while Trump’s vote was a “giant vote.”

That wasn’t the only time NBC boosted Trump’s presence as a political figure. Today hosts tied Trump’s run for president to his business by asking multiple Apprentice contestants whether they would support him four years before he actually ran.

On Jan. 4, 2012, anchor Matt Lauer asked a gathering of contestants whether they thought Trump would make a good president. Everyone raised their hands in agreement.

Trump invited Bush to his wedding in 2005 and Bush reported on the event during multiple episodes of Today. Bush, like other NBC personalities, helped promote Trump’s Miss USA pageant as well.

Editor's Note: This post was updated from an earlier version published on Oct. 10, 2016.
Correction: An earlier version of this story claimed Trump hosted SNL on Nov. 5, 2015. He actually hosted SNL on Nov. 7, 2015.

 
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