What Could Billy Have Done Differently?

I’ve been following many threads about L’Affaire Billy Bush. Many young television hosts have asked what could one do differently in a similar situation, because if you work in the Celebrity Industrial Complex, it is almost guaranteed you will encounter some version of this. Cajoling the talent goes with the territory.

Several people have shared stories – from hilarious to hair raising – in private group chats. We all nod knowingly about the racist remarks, the homophobic slurs, the sexist and threatening language, the vodka in the coffee cup at 7am.

As a talent executive I have had direct experience. Twenty years ago I had to get a film actor to stop smoking pot in a green room while keeping him upbeat and happy to be go on set to promote his movie. Lord knows what I may have said to accomplish that. I’m glad it was pre-social media and I wasn’t mic’d.

20 years later I say, find your moral compass.

Don’t do or say anything that you couldn’t say to your parents and kids or couldn’t live with in the public square. It’s no different than monitoring what you post on social media and write in emails. Sony hack, anyone?

Somewhere I read Billy Bush’s attorney argued in his exit negotiations with NBC, what was Billy supposed to do? Donald Trump was one of the biggest stars on the network at the time.

Here are some suggestions for what a more evolved, self-aware Billy Bush could have done without risking his job:

  1. Done Donald a solid and reminded him, dude we’re mic’d. Donald probably wouldn’t have cared.
  2. Smiled and reminded Donald Trump in the nicest, most professional bro-ish way that Nancy O’Dell was his colleague and off-limits.
  3. Changed the subject and moved the conversation in a different direction. In 2005 he might have said, how bout that Klitschko?
  4. Nodded, smiled and said nothing.
  5. Certainly not have said, “sheesh your girl’s hot as s**t in the purple” or “how about a little hug for the Donald?” after he admitted to sexual assault minutes before.
  6. Written a CYA memo to his bosses immediately after the taping explaining non-defensively what he did and why.

Have you been in this situation? Let me know what you think and how you handled it.