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Billy Bush and the Bystander Effect

“Politics aside, I’m saddened that these comments still exist in our society at all. When I heard the comments yesterday, it was disappointing to hear such objectification of women. The conversation needs to change because no female, no person, should be the subject of such crass comments, whether or not cameras are rolling. Everyone deserves respect no matter the setting or gender. As a woman who has worked very hard to establish her career, and as a mom, I feel I must speak out with the hope that as a society we will always strive to be better.” — Nancy O’Dell

In 1964, a young woman named Kitty Genovese was brutally murdered while numerous onlookers stood by and did nothing to intervene. Soon afterward, social psychologists Bibb Latane and John Darley generated the concept of the Bystander Effect.

“The bystander effect occurs when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation,” reports Psychology Today.

Through the years, many anti-rape, bullying and domestic violence activists have expanded the concept of the bystander effect, to cover situations in which people know full well that abuse and improper conduct is going on, but do nothing to stop or even help quell the unacceptable behavior — or, for that matter, do nothing to contradict the offensive attitudes that lead to this behavior in the first place.

In 2005, while filming a segment for the show Access Hollywood, Donald Trump told reporter Billy Bush in the presence of an all-male crew that — as a “star” — he could do anything he wanted with beautiful women, including kissing them and grabbing their private parts. Bush responds by cackling and saying, “Whatever you want!” And when Trump admits that he put the moves on journalist Nancy O’Dell, Bush (who was at one point O’Dell’s co-anchor on Access) reacts with another show of unbridled boyish mirth.

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When Bush and Trump disembark from the bus to meet soap star Arianne Zucker, Bush encourages her to hug both himself and Trump; this after Trump devoured some Tic Tacs on the bus, in case he might want to kiss Zucker, this is all after he and Bush had discussed her bodily attributes at length.

Bush was a bystander to Trump’s lewd behavior, and even encouraged it,” Michelle Garcia wrote at Vox.Com. “And his behavior exemplifies what advocates have been urging men not to do when in a situation where someone uses sexually aggressive, inappropriate language against women, or even sexually assaults them.”

Garcia said what needed to be said so beautifully; what could I possibly add? Well, just a coupla things….

Billy Bush, you are a scumbag. You are a bystander. You are an enabler. And you are a disgrace to the journalism profession that I have made my life for the past two decades.

That day on the bus, you had an opportunity to do good. You could have told Trump that his actions — as he himself described them — were deplorable. You could have discouraged him from kissing Zucker (who has released an amazing, empowering statement on this matter), or spoken up on behalf of your co-worker, Nancy O’Dell.

Instead you, a husband and father of three daughters, massaged Trump’s ego and played along with his boorish behavior. And by encouraging Zucker to embrace both of you, you yourself became an agent of that behavior.

In your apology regarding this incident, you cited your age (33 at the time) as being one excuse for your ‘play along’ reaction to Trump’s words.

Really? Well ya know what? At age 23, I publicly dressed down two other reporters who had seniority over me — one for making a joke about a rape case in our community, another who told an off color joke in the newsroom. Why did I have more guts at 23 than you did at 33? Why did I, a little known cub reporter at a small town newspaper at the time, have more integrity than someone who now reports for The Today Show? Or at least he did, before he was suspended Sunday.

Oh, by the way, I just signed this petition to have Bush removed from the show completely.

Because I’m no bystander. It’s a damned shame he is.


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