'Today' exec reflects on Billy Bush 'whirlwind'

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Today executive producer Noah Oppenheim says the 48 hours after audio leaked in September of Donald Trump bragging about groping women to Billy Bush were a "whirlwind" that NBC News struggled to manage. Reflecting for the first time on the scandal that led Bush, 45, to exit the network but did not prevent Trump from beating Hillary Clinton, Oppenheim describes an unprecedented atmosphere where top execs weren't sure what steps to take as Bush became embroiled in one of the campaign's biggest bombshells.

"There wasn't an opportunity to catch our breath and say, 'What does this mean for our anchor?' " Oppenheim tells THR's Kim Masters in an upcoming episode of her KCRW radio show The Business. "It was all moving so quickly that I don't think there was ever a fully formed review of the ripple effects it was going to have."

Read more: Michael Wolff on Billy Bush and How the Media Wrung Trump Dry Before Toppling Him

See photos of Billy Bush through the years:

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Billy Bush through the years
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Billy Bush through the years
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 22: NBC News' Billy Bush in conversation with Jeff Rossen for SiriusXM's TODAY Show Radio at SiriusXM Studios on August 22, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: Billy Bush arrives for the women's final at Arthur Ashe Stadium on day 13 of the 2016 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 10, 2016 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/GC Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 08: Billy Bush & Olympic Legend Carl Lewis for Speed-Walking Race for Ages at Copacabana beach on August 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Access Hollywood )
CULVER CITY, CA - MAY 21: TV personality/host Billy Bush attends the Kaleidoscope Ball at 3LABS on May 21, 2016 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 10: Billy Bush visits 'The Elvis Duran Z100 Morning Show' at Z100 Studio on February 10, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 11: Radio host Billy Bush (L) and actress Olivia Jordan attend The American Heart Association's Go Red For Women Red Dress Collection 2016 Presented By Macy's at The Arc, Skylight at Moynihan Station on February 11, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for AHA)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 10: Billy Bush visits 'The Elvis Duran Z100 Morning Show' at Z100 Studio on February 10, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 10: Billy Bush (L) and Bethany Watson at 'The Elvis Duran Z100 Morning Show' at Z100 Studio on February 10, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 09: Billy Bush arrives at the Make-A-Wish Greater Los Angeles Annual Wishing Well Winter Gala at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on December 9, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 09: (L-R) TV personalities Billy Bush and Kit Hoover attend the Make-A-Wish Greater Los Angeles Annual Wishing Well Winter Gala at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on December 9, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Barry King/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 09: TV personality Billy Bush speaks onstage during Make-A-Wish Greater Los Angeles Honoring Oscar De La Hoya, Michael Rosenfeld And Tom Mone at its Annual Wishing Well Winter Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on December 9, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Make-A-Wish Greater Los Angeles)
YOUNTVILLE, CA - NOVEMBER 13: Billy Bush attends the Celebrity Tribute during the Napa Valley Film Festival 2015 at the Lincoln Theatre on November 13, 2015 in Yountville, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 29: Master of Ceremonies Billy Bush attends the imagine1day Visionary Leadership Dinner at The London West Hollywood on October 29, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for imagine1day)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11: TV host, Billy Bush attends 16th Annual Ubuntu Education Fund 1 Million to One: Changing The Odds Gala at Gotham Hall on June 11, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 09: Radio host Billy Bush attends the Farrah Fawcett Foundation 1st annual Tex-Mex Fiesta at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on September 9, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 10: Television personalities Bethenny Frankel (L) and Billy Bush tape a segment at 'Access Hollywood' at the NBC Rockefeller Center Studios on June 10, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Ray Tamarra/GC Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 23: TV personality Billy Bush attends The CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards on April 23, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by C Flanigan/FilmMagic)
BURBANK, CA - MARCH 08: TV Host Billy Bush attends the advance screening of 'Cinderella' benefiting Los Angeles JDRF at Walt Disney Studios on March 8, 2015 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 17: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE/SPECIAL RATES APPLY) TV host Billy Bush visits 'The Elvis Duran Z100 Morning Show' at Z100 Studio on November 17, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)
WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE -- Pictured (l-r): Andy Cohen, Chloe Grace Moretz and Billy Bush -- (Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 23: EXCLUSIVE ACCESS/SPECIAL RATES APPLY - Billy Bush visits 'The Elvis Duran Z100 Morning Show' at Z100 Studio on September 23, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)
WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE -- Pictured: Billy Bush -- (Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
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NBC was criticized for initially saying Bush would be back on the 9 a.m. hour of Today before reversing course and suspending him after negative reaction grew to the 2005 Access Hollywood tape. Bush never returned to the show, negotiating a rich buyout of his three-year contract.

Oppenheim notes it was hard to consider Bush's role as the crisis was unfolding. "The weight of that tape — and the impact it was clear that was going to have on the presidential election and the complexity of bringing it to light — was far more front and center than the sort of personnel ramifications for us internally," he says. The search for Bush's replacement continues, he says, as does the effort to prevent another similar mess: "We understand the challenge."

This story first appeared in the Dec. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.


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