Screenshot via The Washington Post

Donald Trump has reportedly told aides and at least one Senator that it isn’t actually his voice on the infamous Access Hollywood tape gloating about sexual assault during an outtake of an interview with Billy Bush. Last week, Natalie Morales of Access Hollywood, declared that the tape is “very real” before reminding viewers that Trump himself excused the conversation as “locker room talk.”

Billy Bush, former Today Show anchor and erstwhile Trump enabler, has now added his voice to corroboration train and penned a New York Times op-ed on Sunday reiterating the tape’s authenticity. Bush made the tape’s legitimacy quite clear from the first two sentences: “He said it. “Grab ‘em by the pussy.” Trump is indulging in “some revisionist history,” he wrote later.

But the op-ed also seems to be Bush’s lame attempt at humanizing and distancing himself from the Billy Bush who laughed with Trump as he bragged about moving in on a woman “like a bitch.” After detailing a story he read shortly about the nearly 20 women who have accused Trump of sexual assault and harassment, Bush wrote he believed them.

For some reason, though, Bush thought Trump was performing on the bus. (“Surely, we thought, none of this was real.”) The truth is, Bush wanted to believe it was a performance because he benefited from ignoring the grave reality of Trump’s predatory intentions:

The key to succeeding in my line of work was establishing a strong rapport with celebrities. I did that, and was rewarded for it. My segments with Donald Trump when I was just a correspondent were part of the reason I got promoted.

NBC tripled my salary and paid for my moving van from New York to Los Angeles.

Was I acting out of self-interest? You bet I was. Was I alone? Far from it. With Mr. Trump’s outsized viewership back in 2005, everybody from Billy Bush on up to the top brass on the 52nd floor had to stroke the ego of the big cash cow along the way to higher earnings.

Advertisement

Ah yes, the old, “I did it, but so did everyone else” excuse. Bush’s redemption plea continues by explaining how he did, in fact, stand up to Trump 10 years after the tape was recorded, when he announced his candidacy. “In the days, weeks and months to follow, I was highly critical of the idea of a Trump presidency,” he wrote.

It’s Bush’s kicker that really cements his implicit purpose of this op-ed: detoxifying his public image. Bush has learned a lot from being “inexorably linked” to Donald Trump; he admires the women who have came forward to share their horror stories about Trump; he recognizes that this sexual harassment reckoning is a “men’s issue”; he’s a better man and father.

Translation: he’s ready to be on TV again.