Billy Bush pre­pared to sue the net­work, but To­day fought back. The un­told story of their breakup

In Touch (USA) - - Feud News -

NBC meant busi­ness. Less than two days af­ter leaked au­dio of the now-in­fa­mous lewd ex­change be­tween Don­ald Trump and Billy Bush (recorded on a 2005 Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood hot mic) made head­lines on Oct. 7, net­work ex­ec­u­tives pub­licly an­nounced that they’d sus­pended Billy from his du­ties at To­day “pend­ing fur­ther re­view.” Pri­vately, a source tells In Touch ex­clu­sively, “They sent a mes­sen­ger to his house to re­trieve his keys and NBC key card and re­voked his email ac­cess.” Any hopes Billy had that the de­ba­cle would blow over were quickly crushed as things went from bad to worse: Within days, wide­spread reports re­vealed he was, as a net­work in­sider put it, “fac­ing the ax.”

But Billy didn’t go down with­out a fight. Af­ter re­al­iz­ing his days were num­bered, he hired prom­i­nent LA at­tor­ney Mar­shall Gross­man, who came out swing­ing. “Whether Billy had been pas­sive or re­sponded, ‘Shut the f--- up’ to Trump [af­ter the busi­ness­man turned politi­cian made misog­y­nis­tic and preda­tory com­ments about women], Billy would have been out of a job the next day,” the lit­i­ga­tor said on Oct. 13. Billy, 45, “threat­ened to sue NBC over how his exit from To­day is be­ing han­dled,” says the in­sider. “He took them on be­cause he felt that he be­came the fall guy for Don­ald’s com­ments.” Once he re­al­ized NBC was never go­ing to let him back on To­day, he went into war­rior mode, and In Touch has all the de­tails of one of TV’S ugli­est breakups.

It quickly got nasty. “NBC didn’t want to pay Billy the re­main­der of his con­tract, which is $3 mil­lion per year for three years,” says the in­sider. “So they tried to play hard­ball.” Dur­ing the in­tense ne­go­ti­a­tions, Billy felt be-

trayed. “It’s been in­cred­i­bly hurt­ful to him be­cause he’s been at NBC for al­most 15 years, and then all of a sud­den, three min­utes of an au­dio clip have ru­ined his ca­reer and left him out in the cold.” The in­sider adds that Billy fought to save his rep­u­ta­tion. He found him­self with few col­leagues in his cor­ner while stand­ing up to the net­work.

When he joined To­day in Au­gust, Billy was gun­ning for Matt Lauer’s job. That changed quickly, and as Billy ne­go­ti­ated his way out of his con­tract, he only wanted a lump­sum set­tle­ment and a chance to move on. “He knows he’s dam­aged goods at this point, but he in­sisted that NBC void the non­com­pete clause of his con­tract that would pro­hibit him from work­ing for an­other net­work for three years,” says the in­sider. In the end, Billy and To­day wanted the same thing: to move on with­out each other. And NBC re­al­ized it was go­ing to have to pay to get rid of him. Billy’s in­sis­tence on a pay­out in­fu­ri­ated many NBC em­ploy­ees but no one wanted a long, drawn-out bat­tle, and in the end that be­came the most im­por­tant thing for both sides. ◼

NO LOVE LOST “Al­most every­one on the To­day staff loathed Billy,” an NBC source says of co-hosts in­clud­ing Matt Lauer and Sa­van­nah Guthrie.

IN THE COLD “Billy feels very be­trayed by friends at the net­work who haven’t stepped up to his de­fense,” says an in­sider.

TALE OF THE TAPE “The news di­vi­sion is fac­ing some very tough ques­tions” about why they didn’t re­lease the tape of Don­ald and Billy’s lewd com­ments be­fore meet­ing ac­tress Ari­anne Zucker.

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