Billy Bush on Trump tape: "I wish I had changed the topic"

"Access Hollywood" reporter Billy Bush, "Apprentice" host Donald Trump, and actress Arianne Zucker, in a 2005 hot mic recording released last October that nearly derailed Trump's candidacy - and cost Bush his job.

screen grab of 2005 tape published by Washington Post

More than seven months after the release of a video where then-candidate Donald Trump talked about groping women, Billy Bush, the former "Today" host and reporter for "Access Hollywood," gave an interview to The Hollywood Reporter in which he said, "I wish I had changed the topic on the bus."

Trump: "When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything."
Bush: "Whatever you want?"
Trump: "Grab 'em by the p****. You can do anything!"

While Trump explained his comments as "locker room talk" and apologized for the language he used in the 2005 tape -- and went on to become president -- Bush lost his job.

The 2005 video, obtained by the Washington Post, was released weeks before the election. Bush says he had three days' warning before the tape came out, but he still wasn't prepared for the backlash, reports CBSN's Vladimir Duthiers.

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"Access Hollywood" reporter Billy Bush, "Apprentice" host Donald Trump, and actress Arianne Zucker, in a 2005 hot mic recording released last October that nearly derailed Trump's candidacy - and cost Bush his job.

"Access Hollywood"/Washington Post

The "hot mic" conversation threatened Trump's candidacy, and forced the other voice on that tape out of a job.

Bush: "Sheesh, your girl's hot as s***. In the purple."
Trump: "Whoa! Whoa!"
Bush: "Yes! The Donald has scored!"

Bush called his participation "awful" -- and said he wishes he "had changed the topic."

He continued, "I didn't have the strength of character to do it."

In 2005, Trump was on top of the television world. The first season of his show, "The Apprentice," had tens of millions of viewers. As a reporter for "Access Hollywood," it was Bush's job to tag along.

"I was an insecure person, a bit of a pleaser, wanting celebrities to like me and fit in," he said.

Days after the tape's release, at the Oct. 9 presidential debate, Mr. Trump offered this explanation: "This was locker room talk. I'm not proud of it."

More than a week later, Melania Trump revealed she thought Bush had provoked her husband: "They were kind of boy talk and he was lead on, like, egged on from the host to say dirty and bad stuff," she told CNN's Anderson Cooper.

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Billy Bush in August 2016.

Craig Barritt/Getty Images

Bush was eventually fired by NBC. He said he never imagined the undoing of his TV career would come from a campaign scandal.

"If a moment like that arose again," he told the Hollywood Reporter, "I would shut it down quickly."

The 45-year-old nephew of George H.W. Bush has been soul-searching, which he says included walking across hot coals with self-help guru Tony Robbins.

The Hollywood Reporter says Bush accepted a multimillion-dollar severance package from NBC -- and, he says, he still has no idea who leaked the tape.