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Billy Bush Is Back—And, Wow, Is He Woke?

While Trump won the election, Bush walked hot coals with Tony Robbins

image via Hollywood Reporter

It’s been about seven months (October 7, 2016, to be exact) since that infamous 2005 videotape featuring (then) Apprentice star Donald Trump and (then) Access Hollywood host Billy Bush triggered one of American politics biggest scandals. We all know what happens next. Trump became president. The horrible incident inspired a whole lot of awesome hats. And Bush became a media pariah. Disgraced and dismissed from his Today show job, he slithered out of the spotlight for nearly half a year.

So, what’s he been up to, you ask? Reading self-help books, hanging out with Tony Robbins, and walking over hot coals, for starters.

In an exclusive interview just published by The Hollywood Reporter, Bush describes what it’s taken for him to detox from a Trump scandal—and, along with that, evolve into something resembling a thoughtful human being versus the sexist, sycophantic dirtbag many of us so quickly understood him to be.

According to THR, Bush has only watched the Access Hollywood tape, the one where he titters while Trump brags about grabbing women by “the pussy,” three times: the first happened three days before the scandal broke; the other two occurred in preparation for the THR interview. He describes himself as “gutted” each time he watched it. Looking back at his response to Trump’s admission that he sexually assaults women, Bush says, “I wish I had changed the topic … I didn’t have the strength of character.”

Screenshot from the Access Hollywood leaked tape

Throughout the 90-minute conversation, he describes the past several months as a “roller coaster” with the “media circus.”

If you start from the day everything happened, Friday, Oct.?7, it was just instant shock. Things were happening way too fast, and a media circus developed. I've never been the type that the paparazzi would be interested in. So that early part was just chaos. But then things progressed, and when you have a big, traumatic event, you go through stages, and it led to acceptance and understanding. And then I found myself in a place of soul searching. And I developed a commitment to become a better, fuller man.

Unfortunately that process of self-actualization may be a tad undone by the fact that he—still—doesn’t seem to grasp why or what he actually did or said was wrong. Back in 2016, when most thought this would be the end of his presidential run, Trump blew the incident off as “locker room banter.” Bush rejects Trump’s dismissive tone in this interview. But Bush himself pulls the tried-and-true “that wasn’t me.”

When the interviewer asks how Bush explained his behavior to his three teenaged daughters, he replies:

My [then] 15-year-old, Mary, called me from boarding school, and she was in tears: ‘Dad, Dad, Dad,’ and I said, ‘Everything is going to be fine, Mary. Everything's going to be ok.’ It's just instinctively what you say to your daughter. And she said, ‘No, why were you laughing at the things that he was saying on that bus, Dad? They weren't funny.’ It hit really hard, and I stopped for a second, and I said, ‘I have no answer for that that's any good. I am really sorry. That was Dad in a bad moment a long time ago. You know me. I am really sorry that you had to hear and see that. I love you.’ She needed to hear that, and I certainly needed to tell her that.

Bush’s problem, it seems to him anyway, isn’t that he’s a sexist jerk. You see, he’s now a great husband and father who used to dabble as a sexist jerk on the side. Bush was just your average guy, sucked into Trump’s unstoppable misogynist riptide. “That was a long time ago” is maybe a step or two less dismissive than “locker room banter.”

Which gets us back to the part about Tony Robbins. Bush says he spent his social outcast time with the lifestyle guru, trying strengthen his moral fiber by scorching his tootsies along “12 feet over 2,220 coals.”

He also did yoga, meditation, attended a Napa retreat, and read the book, The Power of Now , a book about enlightenment by German spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle. He doesn’t say anything about, say, confronting the awfulness of what was said by meeting with sexual assault survivors, or supporting the Women’s March, or putting forth any other demonstrative behaviors that may lead to actual enlightenment. But hey, that’s now. Maybe he’s just pacing himself for the interview revelations that come later.

Here’s the complete Q&A.

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