Billy Bush speaks out about lewd Donald Trump tape for the first time: 'I wish I had changed the topic'


Billy Bush is finally opening up about the infamous "hot mic" recording of his 2005 conversation with Donald Trump that cost him his job at the Today Show. The former TV host sat down with The Hollywood Reporter and reflected on the tape's impact on his life.

According to Bush, "plenty of people" at NBC knew about the tape's existence before it was leaked to The Washington Post in October 2016. He also reveals he's only been able to watch the tape three times, and hearing his comments always left him feeling "totally and completely gutted."

WATCH: Billy Bush Hires Lawyer, Defends Anchor's Role in Donald Trump Tape

In the infamous recording -- which was tapped while Trump was speaking with Bush on an Access Hollywood tour bus -- the president made sexually disparaging comments about women and getting away with lewd behavior while Bush laughed instead of saying something.

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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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"Looking back upon what was said on that bus, I wish I had changed the topic," Bush admitted. "[Trump] liked TV and competition. I could've said, 'Can you believe the ratings on whatever?' But I didn't have the strength of character to do it."

As for the fallout, Bush opened up about how he explained his behavior to his daughters, Lillie, Josie and Mary.

"My then-15-year-old, Mary, called me from boarding school, and she was in tears: 'Dad, Dad, Dad,' and I said, 'Everything is going to be fine, Mary. Everything's going to be OK.' It's just instinctively what you say to your daughter," Bush recounted. "And she said, 'No, why were you laughing at the things that he was saying on that bus, Dad? They weren't funny.'"

"It hit really hard, and I stopped for a second, and I said, 'I have no answer for that that's any good. I am really sorry. That was Dad in a bad moment a long time ago. You know me. I am really sorry that you had to hear and see that. I love you,'" he continued.

WATCH: Melania Trump Blames Billy Bush for Egging Donald Trump On in Lewd 2005 Tape

Bush said that one of the things that has hit him the hardest has been the idea that he's contributed to a culture of sexism and sexual objectification in America.

"When a woman watches that tape — and this is what really hit me — they may be asking themselves, 'Is that what happens when I walk out of a room? When I walk out of a meeting, is that what they're saying about me? Are they sizing me up?'" Bush reflected. "I can't live with that. If a moment like that arose again, I would shut it down quickly."

According to Bush, he didn't shut it down when Trump began making the remarks because he was trying to stay on the Celebrity Apprentice host's good side.

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Billy Bush on the Today Show
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Billy Bush on the Today Show
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 16: (BROADCAST - OUT) Natalie Morales, Billy Bush and Al Roker joke on the Today show set on Copacabana Beach on August 16, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12: (BROADCAST - OUT) Host, Billy Bush takes a photo with Nicole Johnson and Boomer Phelps on the Today show set on Copacabana Beach on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) US Olympians David Plummer and Kathleen Baker with Anchors Natalie Morales and Billy Bush appear on NBC's 'TODAY' show at the Rio Olympics on Monday, August 9, 2016 -- (Photo by: Joe Scarnici/NBC)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Anchors Natalie Morales, Hoda Kotb, Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Billy Bush with US team doctor Kevin Pierce appear on NBC's 'TODAY' show at the Rio Olympics on Monday, August 9, 2016 -- (Photo by: Joe Scarnici/NBC)
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 )
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 08: (L-R) Billy Bush, Kit Hoover & Olympic Legend Carl Lewis talk on Copacabana Beach prior to a 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 )
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Anchors Natalie Morales, Billy Bush and Al Roker with Nastia Liukin appear on NBC's 'TODAY' show at the Rio Olympics on Monday, August 9, 2016 -- (Photo by: Joe Scarnici/NBC)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 08: Billy Bush & Olympic Legend Carl Lewis embrace after crossing the finish line after a 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 )
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Anchors Natalie Morales, Billy Bush and Al Roker appear on NBC's 'TODAY' show at the Rio Olympics on Monday, August 9, 2016 -- (Photo by: Joe Scarnici/NBC)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 16: (BROADCAST - OUT) Robel Kiros Habte of Ethiopia receives a high five from Al Roker with Natalie Morales, Billy Bush on the Today show set on Copacabana Beach on August 16, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Anchors Billy Bush, Matt Lauer, Natalie Morales, Al Roker and Hoda Kotb appear on NBC's 'TODAY' show at the Rio Olympics on Monday, August 9, 2016 -- (Photo by: Joe Scarnici/NBC)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) US Olympians David Plummer and Kathleen Baker, Anchors Natalie Morales, Billy Bush and Al Roker and US Olympian Katie Meili appear on NBC's 'TODAY' show at the Rio Olympics on Monday, August 9, 2016 -- (Photo by: Joe Scarnici/NBC)
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"I always had a nervous energy through these situations because he also decided a lot of times from day to day, moment to moment, who he liked, who was in and who was out, and my job was to remain in," he shared. "I needed to be in, or maybe I'd be out. So that was the Trump environment."

MORE: 13 Biggest Celebrity Scandals of 2016: 'Becky With the Good Hair' to Billy Bush

As for Trump calling his sexist comments "locker room talk," Bush says that characterization is totally false.

"I'm in a lot of locker rooms, I am an athlete, and no, that is not the type of conversation that goes on or that I've participated in," he stated.

Since the release of the tapes -- and Bush's subsequent termination from the Today Show after just three months -- the host said, "I found myself in a place of soul-searching. And I developed a commitment to become a better, fuller man."

In his journey of self-improvement, Bush said sought out a number of different experiences that would help him look inside his soul, including The Hoffman Process -- a weeklong retreat aimed at self-discovery -- and he spent time with motivational guru Tony Robbins.

WATCH: Matt Lauer Wishes Billy Bush 'the Best' After His Exit From 'Today' Show

"I attended his seminar. There was a powerful moment with Tony in front of 9,000 people at the Galen Center [in L.A.]. He walked to the end of the stage, and he pointed at me in the middle of his thing, and he said, 'One moment in your life does not define who you are,'" Bush recalled. "And the camera hit me, and these people started applauding -- it was a little overwhelming but really empowering."

After being sidelined for over seven months, Bush said he's not going to retire from show business indefinitely, and has a plan for coming back into the mainstream fold.

"But I plan to return to the job that I love, which is television, communicating, interviewing people," he explained. "I have changed in a way that I think will make me better at my job."

WATCH: What's Next for Billy Bush?

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