NBC deserves to be condemned for its conduct in many ways in reference to the Trump Pussy Tape episode, going back eleven years.
1. NBC technicians allowed Trump to continue talking without his realizing that his microphone was on. Unethical, and unprofessional, as well as a pure Golden Rule violation. Basic decency, fairness and professionalism requires that when a guest is doing this, his mistake must be made known to him at the earliest possible time. This is the rule when someone continues to speak on a conference call believing the call has ended. It is the ethical thing to do when you are in a bathroom stall and your opponents in a law suit start discussing strategy while they are washing their hands. I have several times, at taped seminars, begun to answer questions during a break and realized that I was still being recorded. Sometimes a technician has reminded me. Worse (but funnier) I have done a full “Naked Gun”, using the Men’s Room while wearing a live mic…and the technician dashed in to get me to turn it off, just in time. (Well, almost.) Allowing a guest to embarrass himself on tape as Trump did is despicable and unprofessional in every way.
2. NBC betrayed its own employee, Billy Bush, by not alerting him, either. Disloyal, unfair, and uncaring.
3. Once the recording was made, it should have been destroyed as soon as anyone in authority realized the participants were speaking without knowing the mics were on.
4. Attorney Robert Barnes makes a compelling argument that NBC’s conduct violated California Penal Code 632, which criminalizes the act of any person who “without the consent of all parties” records their conversations. Of course, violating the law is also unethical. Trump might have a just lawsuit, though the damage can’t be undone: the pussy’s out of the bag, so to speak.
5. Bush, as an NBC employee, should have been told about the recording and its contents long, long before it was made public. NBC was obligated to inform him as a basic courtesy.
6. When the video was discovered in the archives years later, they should have been destroyed at that time, even though Trump’s status had changed and he was a Presidential candidate. It was—barely–newsworthy, but the fact that it was unethical for NBC to make it and keep it had not changed in the eleven years. The video should not have been available, and NBC still had its original obligation to make it unavailable. An unethical party cannot ethically benefit from from its failure to act ethically at an earlier time.
7. Now the Today Show has suspended Billy Bush indefinitely , for the way a recording— that was unethical to make, that he should have been told about, that may have been illegal, that should not have been saved—represents him to the public. It has little choice but to do this now, since he is damaged goods, perhaps permanently. Still, they damaged him and the fault is theirs, not Bush’s. The network has an ethical to be accountable and to do its utmost to rehabilitate his career and reputation from the harm NBC caused.
8. Worse, NBC is attempting to make Bush, who is a victim here, a villain. “Let me be clear: There is simply no excuse for Billy’s language and behavior on that tape,” the show’s producer wrote to staffers. Really? What was he supposed to do? He was an NBC employee, and Trump was a guest on a network show, blathering on in characteristically repulsive fashion. Bush’s job was to be nice, maybe recruit Trump for an interview on his own show, “Access Hollywood,” and build rapport with a celebrity NBC might have future dealings with. He didn’t have the authority to throw Trump off the set. He couldn’t slap Trump in the face and proclaim, “You, sir, are an unmannerly cur! Leave my sight!”
Yes, the ideal response would be to say, “Mr. Trump, I’m not comfortable with this kind of talk (that I hear all day, every day, from the show business jerks I work with), so please stop,” though given Trump’s instability, this would entail considerable professional and personal risk. Instead, Bush reasoned, “OK, its just us, and this isn’t being recorded; it doesn’t do any harm to let him talk.”
It shouldn’t have, either. Billy was the victim of moral luck, as well as NBC.
9. Billy’s “inexcusable language” consisted of two sentences: “Sheesh, your girl’s hot as shit,” and “Oh, that’s good legs.” The Horror. There is worse language than that all over TV, 24 hours a day. It is “inexcusable” to say “shit?” Or comment on a woman’s legs? In show business? The Vice -President of the United States never apologized for saying “big fucking deal” on a hot mic: should Obama have suspended him?
Verdict: Trump’s conduct, though revolting, wasn’t the most unethical in this episode. NBC’s was, and the network was also 100% responsible for it occurring.
And it is milking it for all it’s worth.