Billy Bush, going public for the first time, wrote in The New York Times, “Of course he said it.” Representatives for the show have called the tape “very real.” The field producer on the shoot, who asked not to be identified to stay out of the political fray, tells Variety that he heard part of the conversation in real time, with a camera and sound crew shooting Trump and Bush’s arrival via bus at NBC’s Burbank studio.
But one question still lingers: Who leaked the tape?
That has been a source of theories ever since The Washington Post published the contents of the tape on the afternoon of Oct. 7, sending the political world into a weekend of frenzy. Trump apologized in a hastily produced video made late that night, but Republicans began abandoning his campaign the next day. By Oct. 9, though, as Trump faced Hillary Clinton in a presidential debate, he adopted a new strategy: dismissing his conversation with Bush as “locker room talk.”
In the immediate aftermath, there were reports that NBC News and “Access Hollywood” were aware of the tape at least several days before the Post published it but did not go public with it because NBC’s lawyers were reviewing the implications of its disclosure. Then it leaked to the Post. It’s still a mystery as to who sent the tape to another news outlet to break the biggest story of the 2016 campaign.
The field producer recalls shooting the bus’s arrival on the NBC lot in Burbank, after a crew had put mics on Trump and Bush. The producer was alerted by his sound technician of the conversation taking place, and he listened in on the headphones. “Wow,” he remembers thinking. “I couldn’t believe it.”
He recalls playing the tape for senior producers at “Access Hollywood,” but there was so much going on in the production of the show that they had little or no reaction to it. So the tape went to the vault.
“It was his voice,” the producer says, challenging Trump’s assertion that the tape may not be the real thing. “It was him.”