Billy Bush leaves Today show after lewd tape

Los Angeles - US television host Billy Bush is leaving the Today show, NBC said on Monday, after a 2005 video surfaced in which he and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made lewd comments about women.

Bush, 45, was suspended from hosting duties on NBC's flagship morning show after tape came to light 10 days ago. In it, Bush laughed and bantered as Trump, then star of the Apprentice reality TV show, boasted about kissing and groping women without their permission and trying to seduce a married woman.

Billy Bush. File picture: Richard Shotwell. Credit: AP

NBC said in a statement: “While he was a new member of the Today team, he was a valued colleague and longtime member of the broader NBC family. We wish him success as he goes forward.”

Bush said in a statement that he was “deeply grateful for the conversations I've had with my daughters, and for all of the support from family, friends and colleagues”.

“I look forward to what lies ahead,” he added.

Bush's attorney, Marshall Grossman, said Bush's settlement with NBC did not include any non-compete restrictions and that Bush was “free to do whatever he wishes to do professionally”.

He declined to reveal the financial terms of the settlement, citing confidentiality. Grossman had said last week that news reports of a potential $10 million settlement were false.

Bush, a cousin of former US president George W. Bush, became one of the co-hosts of the Today show in August. The morning show is one of NBC's most lucrative properties and boasts a large female viewership.

Trump's wife, Melania Trump, in a interview with CNN that aired on Monday night, defended her husband over the tape. She accused Bush of provoking Trump and said he was “led on - like, egged on - from the host to say dirty and bad stuff”.

In 2005, Bush and Trump were wearing live microphones as they arrived on set to film a segment for Access Hollywood, a celebrity and entertainment news programme that Bush hosted at the time and is also part of the NBC group.

Bush apologised on October 7, saying he was “embarrassed and ashamed” by his behaviour, and NBC announced it was suspending him from Today.

Noah Oppenheim, the executive in charge of Today had written in a memo to staff that “there is simply no excuse for Billy's language and behaviour on that tape”.

The married woman discussed in the conversation has since been identified as Bush's Access Hollywood co-host Nancy O'Dell.

Last week, O'Dell said that there is “no room for objectification of women, or anyone for that matter, not even in the locker room”.