Donald Trump: Did NBC Execs Try to Bury Billy Bush Tape?

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Throughout his controversial run for the White House, Donald Trump has maintained an unusual relationship with NBC and its on-air talent.

Back in the early aughts, the network helped the GOP candidate maintain his household name status with The Apprentice.

But shortly after his presidential campaign kicked off in June of 2015, NBC severed ties with Trump in response to the real estate mogul's outrageous statements about immigrants from Mexico.

Donald Trump Soaks It in

It seemed as though Trump and NBC would remain at odds for the remainder of this election season, but in the past few weeks, the relationship between the real estate mogul and the struggling network took an odd turn.

First, Today anchor Matt Lauer was accused of displaying a pro-Trump bias during September's Commander-in-Chief Forum.

Shortly thereafter, Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon was widely criticized for helping to humanize Trump in a jocular interview loaded with softball questions.

Not long after that, NBC Nightly News anchor and debate moderator Lester Holt took serious flak for allowing Trump to interrupt Hillary Clinton and generally run rough-shod over the evening's format during the candidate's first head-to-head debate.

Donald Trump, Displeased

Many believed that NBC was guilty of overcompensating, so as not to appear at odds with a candidate who was never expected to become a major party nominee, and whom the network butted heads with early in his primary run.

Then, last week, one of the biggest bombshells of this election year dropped in the form of footage in which Trump appears to boast about acts of sexual assault.

Once again, NBC was directly involved.

The shocking video (seen below) featured Trump bragging about groping and harassing women in a conversation with Access Hollywood host Billy Bush, while on the set of the long-running soap opera Days of Our Lives.

Days and Access are both NBC properties, and Bush was a longtime employee of the network.

The fact that the footage was released by the Washington Post (after allegedly being leaked by an Access staffer) and not by NBC has resulted in yet more criticism for a news department that's been under fire for much of this campaign.

NBC fired Bush from the Today show yesterday, but many feel that the fact that execs knew about the footage months ago and chose not to release it will leave the network with a black eye from which it may never recover.

Now, however, there's reason to believe that NBC had every intention of releasing the tape, but planned to do so at a later date, so as to have a greater impact on the outcome of the election.

Billy Bush and Donald Trump

According to TMZ, NBC execs knew about the footage for quite some time (some say for more than a decade), and as several of them are no fans of Trump's they planned to release the video at a time when it would do the most damage to his campaign.

After the tape went public, Access Hollywood aired an edited version of the video, in which offensive comments made by Bush were cut out.

It seems there was initially a plan for Access to release the tape in its entirety, though how the show would've aired footage so damaging to Bush without causing irreparable harm to its own reputation remains unclear.

Interestingly, there are reports that NBC is angry that it allowed itself to be scooped with its own footage, but plans to take advantage of another opportunity to stick it to the Donald.

A former employee of the network recently confirmed the existence of footage of Trump using the "n-word" during his time on The Apprentice.

There may be significant legal hurdles, but at this point, releasing the tape would allow NBC to achieve the twin goals of restoring faith in its objectivity and hurting Trump's chances of getting elected.

It seems that if the network has its way, there may be one more October surprise in store for Trump.

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