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Tanika Ray, the former “Extra” host known for her big bright smile and her vibrant and voluminous afro, has opened up about the reason she decided to leave the entertainment news show: the show’s decision to hire defamed entertainment reporter Billy Bush. In a recent interview with Urban Hollywood 911, Ray opened up about walking away.

Ray said that with Mario Lopez leaving the show, she was uncertain about her future with the company.

“There was no communication. Two or three weeks out, the crew didn’t know if they were staying. So there’s something about the way that they operate where there’s just, they operate by silence and mystery,”

Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey, the senior executive producer of “Extra,” refutes Ray’s claims, saying she gave her more than enough notice about the changes going on with the show.

“We knew that we were going to Fox right after Christmas. First, I talked to Tanika’s agent — she had a new agent — on February 8, and told him then that I was probably going to start mainly fresh. I met with Tanika on April 22, and told her officially that she would not be coming back. I feel like I gave Tanika more than enough notice. I told both of her representatives, and Tanika, by April.”

After the Fox acquisition, “Extra” announced that after an investigation into the sexual assault claims lodged against A.J. Calloway, the company would no longer continue their relationship with him. Then “Extra” announced that Billy Bush was coming to “Extra.”

Bush was infamously fired from “Today” during the 2016 presidential campaign when audio from 2005 proved he laughed at Donald Trump made about grabbing women by the p*ssy.

Ray said her jaw dropped when she learned that Bush would be the face of “Extra.”

“Only in America. I think that we live in a country where it’s been proven time and time again, that privilege is real,” she said. “He can make a comeback. Whereas one of my co-hosts, A.J. Calloway, he was allegedly involved in some sexual scandal. It’s never been proven, but he will never work in TV again. But that’s America, isn’t it? And once we understand the reality of it, we can move to changing that. But sure, he [Bush] can get another chance. That’s sort of the world we live in.”

Ray said that when Bush was hired, Ray was told, “we still might need you.” But Ray said with a five-year-old daughter getting ready to start kindergarten she needed something more sure. So she left.

Gregorisch-Dempsey said the door is still open for Ray to return.

Ray said what she’ll miss most about her role with “Extra” is bringing stories about diverse celebrities to the program.

“The thing that really is the most sad for me, is that I held up my community so hard,” she said. “I rode for us every single day. And with black celebrities that may not have gone mainstream… I made sure to get them on our podium or our platform. I made sure to do an incredible interview with them. That gives them [producers] no choice but to put it in the show.”

Ray said this happened with rapper Nipsey Hussle.

“They didn’t know who the hell he was. I did and I knew that he was important, so I brought him over and did this interview.”

“Extra” initially didn’t include Hussle in their Grammy coverage but once he was fatally shot and the show saw how important he was to the Black community, they retrieved the interview from their archive and posted it online. The video ultimately went viral.

“This has been shared by Lauren. It has been shared by Nipsey’s fans because it was a beautiful moment of them sharing their love together, talking about the business, talking about the relationship, and had I not been there, they’re not going to get that,” she said. “There’s none of the people that are there now, who will know those types of people in our culture.”

As for what’s next for her, Ray said, “Only God knows. And I’m excited to get in line with that, to be in the flow of my purpose, which is how I run my entire life. There’s no reason, as you know, that I should even be a television host or play the role of a reporter. Because I never went to journalism school,” she said.

“It’s about what I naturally do well, and it synced up with being a TV journalist,” she explained. “I’m a great listener. I’m naturally curious about people. And I love finding out what makes people tick.”

I wish Tanika the best but I do think it’s worth noting that while Bush was dead wrong for laughing at what amounts to sexual assault, his laughing a disgusting comments and A.J. Calloway’s alleged incidents (plural) of sexual assault are entirely different in their level of severity and impact.

You can watch her full interview with Urban Hollywood 911 in the video below.

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