Four days after the Washington Post published the now-infamous video of Donald Trump and Billy Bush giggling over Trump’s affinity for groping women (c’mon guys, it was just "locker room talk"), it appears NBC is finally poised to fire the "Today" show host.
The only question remaining now is, what the hell took so long? Cause let’s be honest, the Peacock’s embattled news division should be better at this by now. It was just last year that NBC News—under the direction of recently reappointed president Andy Lack—decided to suspend Brian Williams, and ultimately demote him to MSNBC, for misrepresenting his war-time experiences as a journalist.
While one could argue that Williams’ crime was far greater—a respected journalist falsifying information poses an actual threat to democracy, whereas the host of an entertainment show sycophantically laughing at rapey humor mostly just confirms public suspicions about vacuous, blow-dried TV personalities. But this is network news, where—right or wrong—there is no greater crime than turning off viewers (who will return the favor in kind). The "Today" show is aimed squarely at women 25 to 54. Could he have found a more vile way to offend them without actually breaking the law?
Why it took NBC News this long to figure out that Bush could no longer be employed there, particularly in the third-hour of "Today," with its upbeat, coffee-klatch mentality, is hard to comprehend. Did they think there was an apology large enough to win back the trust of half of America’s population (or, for that matter, men who aren’t total pigs)? Did they really picture Bush sitting beside Al Roker and Tamron Hall next week laughing it up like part of the team?
The whole affair has to make you wonder about the state of NBC News, which seems to revel in these self-inflicted wounds. It was barely four years ago that NBC indelicately replaced beloved Ann Curry on "Today" with Savannah Guthrie, squandering years of audience goodwill for both the franchise and its star host, Matt Lauer, who was seen as orchestrating the move. That whole scenario called to mind the now-classic Jane Pauley vs. Deborah Norville fiasco of 1989, in which the notably younger Norville was perceived as a "home-wrecker" for replacing Pauley, and viewers tuned out in droves.
Of course, time can heal some wounds. The then-adored Katie Couric replaced Norville, and Guthrie eventually gained the respect of the target audience. And both franchises – "Nightly News" and "Today" – now sit comfortably in the ratings. Based on the Live Plus Same Day data from Nielsen for the week of Oct. 3, the two finished first among target adults 25 to 54, and was a very competitive second in total viewers. But, when a Today co-anchor is caught egging on Trump as he boasts about trying to bed former "Access Hollywood" co-host Nancy O’Dell, there can be no hope for retribution. He should have been fired faster than David Cassidy on "Celebrity Apprentice."
It only makes matters worse that NBC News got scooped on its own tape. The division was aware of the video footage for nearly four days, but held onto the recording until its lawyers finished reviewing the material because—reportedly—they feared being sued by Trump. Just last year, the Republican nominee threatened to sue when the network’s entertainment division dropped plans to air the Miss USA beauty pageant because of Trump’s inflammatory remarks about Mexican immigrants. So, the message here is that NBC New fears a potential (and highly laughable) lawsuit more than it wants to report the news, particularly if it might embarrass one of its star personalities.
Naturally, NBC cannot rid us of Bush’s partner in profanity, who just happens to be the Republican nominee for President. The American public will have to make that decision on November 8. But what the network could have done is send a message that behavior of that magnitude, past or present, is never acceptable, particularly from a member of the news division who is supposed to be a trusted source. Given the outcry on social media, and who "Today" is targeted to, delaying the inevitable only magnified this already disturbing situation.
Considering Bush already ruffled feathers by defending Ryan Lochte’s atrocious behavior at the Rio Olympics in August, he should—like the disgraced swimmer—apply now for a spot on the spring edition of ABC’s "Dancing With the Stars." Who knows? With a little luck, we might see Trump bunny hopping for votes right alongside him.