After 'Today' ouster, Billy Bush faces long road to redemption

Billy Bush’s three-month tenure at Today and 15-year career at NBC are officially over, less than two weeks after his sexually graphic 2005 conversation with Donald Trump surfaced.

In a statement, Bush said, "I look forward to what lies ahead." So what does lie ahead for the embattled TV personality? Here are the five biggest questions we have about his future.

Will any other media outlet touch him right now? Bush's attorney, Marshall Grossman, told Variety, “he is a free agent, and there is no non-compete (clause)."

But while there's no cooling-off period, the job market may impose one anyway. And for the long-term health of his career, he ought to consider imposing one on himself, says Eric Schiffer, the chairman of Reputation Management Consultants in Los Angeles. "Right now, the election is too hot. He needs to stay out of camera range for a while."

How long will he be in the penalty box and how should he spend that time? "There's actually academic research on the 'confessional,' (or) how long you have to keep your head down before you re-emerge," says University of Maryland broadcast journalism professor Mark Feldstein. "But it seems like all bets are off these days. The rules seem to be changing before our very eyes."

Schiffer estimates the rehabilitation process could take up to a year.

"I would begin looking at potentially writing a book to discuss this whole scenario and what (he) learned from it," he says. "And I would look at spending time giving back to women’s causes to show goodwill and contribute time, not just money. Then I’d sit down with my agent and look at opportunities in the entertainment arena. There are certainly many brands that would welcome him once this stigma dissipates. I think it's likely he'll see radio (offers) first. It's a safer re-entry."

Which job would be the best fit, post-scandal? Feldstein would advise to "market himself to a narrower audience who's going to love him more."  While he may no longer appeal to most women, "there’s going to be that 20% to 30% that feels like he got a raw deal and will be extra loyal as viewers."

Feldstein says a blue-collar audience will  "identify with him the way they do with Trump, as someone under siege, someone cast out by the establishment — even though he's actually a wealthy, dynastic family member, just as Trump is a billionaire."

What will his redemption campaign look like? Schiffer predicts he'll do a confessional interview, choosing a journalist who's respected by women and sympathetic — or at least open — to his situation.

What about Dancing With the Stars, the newest stop on the reputation rehabilitation highway? ABC's competition series has extended invitations to scandal-tinged celebs including ex-congressman Tom DeLay, TV chef Paula Deen and swimmer Ryan Lochte, and "would help Billy rehab his celebrity image," Schiffer says.

Can Bush ever fully rebound from this scandal? "He will never be employable in a serious, mainstream news organization, or even something even approaching that, like the Today show," Feldstein says. "But if anything, he’s more famous now than he was before — and infamous. For the right sort of entertainment show, he could be a catch for them and a certain viewership ... And he’s still got the family name and connections."


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