When the video of Donald Trump having a lewd conversation with TV host Billy Bush came out, I condemned both of them. Trump was disgusting, and Bush was just as bad for going along with it. Firing him seemed like a slam dunk case for NBC. Who wants someone who talks like that on staff?
Well, apparently, NBC did, since they employed Trump for years and years after this conversation took place. It's doubtful that this was a one-time inappropriate conversation for Trump. In retrospect, my response against Bush was sexist. Should Bush have stood up to Trump? Morally, yes. Should Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly have stood up to Roger Ailes? Morally, yes. We should all stand up to bad behavior--especially sexually charged bad behavior. But they didn't, and I saw the logic to that. In response, I wrote:
[M]egyn Kelly now has the money and the power and the prestige to fight back, so now is the right time to fight back. People ask why she didn't complain long before. I'll tell you why--she knew it would destroy her career. She made the right decision to fight back now that she's not in danger of ruining her career.
What's the difference between Gretchen Carlson, Megyn Kelly, and Billy Bush? Bush is male and he was an active participant in the conversation. But his lawyer just pointed out that Bush would have been fired if he had stood up to Trump.
True? Of course, we can't prove a what if situation, but I agree with Bush's lawyer. In 2005 Trump was the Star of the NBC Hit The Apprentice. He was making big money for NBC as a star. What would have happened if Bush had complained and labeled Trump's statements as sexual harassment?
Most likely, the network would have backed Trump. He was their money maker. Bush would have been offered a small severance package in exchange for not disclosing any of this, and been sent on his way. Now, if you're a barista, there's always another coffee shop, but breaking into network television is a bit harder. People don't want to take severance and go away because there is a good chance that this is their only shot. And there's even a chance that Bush would have been offered nothing. After all, he's male and Trump's statements were directed toward women.
We believed that Carlson and Kelly were logical in keeping their mouths shut and not telling Roger Ailes to knock it off. Why wouldn't we think the same of Bush? Because he participated? Does this mean if you laugh at someone's inappropriate comment in order to protect your job that you should be fired? Does laughing once, or responding once mean you lose your chance to claim sexual harassment forever? Carlson and Kelly waited years and years to speak up.
Bush apologized immediately after the tape came out, and, to the best of my knowledge, no one has come forth to say that this type of behavior was typical for him. He says he feels like "political roadkill in NBC's desire to take down Trump." And he is. If Trump weren't running for president, this tape would have never surfaced.
Bush is expected to get a $10 million settlement from NBC, which is a payout of his three-year contract. While that's a nice sum, keeping his job would be a better response for someone who would have been fired for speaking up.