What We Can Learn from the Return of Billy Bush

New “Extra, Extra” TV Gig Gives Bush the Opportunity to Perform His Way Out of Crisis      

5/9/19 – – With the recent news of threatened tariff battles, constitutional crises and royal births, you may have missed the announcement that Billy Bush is returning to television. The fallen TV host will anchor “Extra, Extra,” a revamped version of the “Extra” entertainment magazine program, when it debuts in syndication on Fox stations this fall.

As you may recall, young Mr. Bush, first cousin of President George W. Bush, was fired from NBC’s Today show weeks before the 2016 presidential election after a recording surfaced of an off-camera verbal exchange he had with Donald Trump in 2005 (at the time Bush was hosting “Access Hollywood” and Trump was the star of “The Apprentice”).  Negative public reaction to the vulgar, misogynist thoughts expressed by Trump and accepted as humorous by Bush was fierce. In the aftermath, Trump moved into the White House, Bush ended up in the dog house, his career and personal life in tatters.   

You may not have been losing sleep over Billy’s banishment. But his emergence from reputational purgatory merits our attention.

As we discuss in Chapter 21 of The Crisis Preparedness Quotient – Measuring Your Readiness to Weather a Reputational Storm (“Performance is the Best Path to Recovery”), a crisis is never over until the assailed person (or company) is perceived to be back on his or her game and out from under the cloud of crisis. Billy’s public apologies, good behavior, and time away from the spotlight have earned him a shot at forgiveness. His new “Extra, Extra” gig gives him the opportunity to perform again. That’s the surest path to redemption.

You can perform your way out of a crisis. Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton, Kobe Bryant, Jane Fonda, Alex Rodriguez and Michael Phelps have all proven that. But when a public figure is blocked from getting back on stage, recovery is almost impossible.

It’s hard even to imagine the frustration of  disgraced individuals like Roseanne Barr (offensive tweeting), football star Ray Rice (domestic violence), Garrison Keillor (allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior), comedian Michael Richards (use of the N-word), Lance Armstrong (blood doping) and Mat Lauer (allegations of sexual harassment). They’re in the wilderness, unable to get back to work, back on the field, back on the air.

Crisis counselors who help individuals and organizations navigate reputational storms – more art than science – understand that the strength of pre-crisis reputations and the nature of offenses make a big difference in the duration and severity of the suffering. Has Billy Bush done enough to atone for his sins? Are viewers ready to move on and accept him back into their lives? The producers of “Extra, Extra” are betting on Billy, and they’ve given him something truly precious on his road to recovery: the platform to perform.


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