Kathie Lee Gifford is leaving the “Today” show in April , she announced Tuesday.
The longtime host, 65, revealed the news on the NBC morning show, alongside her co-host Hoda Kotb, who was choked up. Her last day on the show will be April 7, and her replacement has not yet been determined, NBC president Noah Oppenheim told the show’s staff in a memo obtained by USA TODAY.
“I have something to share with everybody, and it’s bittersweet as these things always are,” a visibly emotional Gifford told viewers at the top of “Today’s” fourth hour.
“I’ve been here almost 11 years; thought I would stay one year, something happened along the way. I fell in love…” she said, pointing to Kotb. “And now, when it’s our eleventh anniversary, I am going to be leaving the ‘Today’ show.”
Gifford said she was leaving to focus on other projects, such as an 11-minute film, “The God Who Sees,” filming in Israel.
“The minute you stepped into my life… everything changed,” Kotb said to Gifford. “Everything good that has happened in my life has happened because you came.”
Both dried their eyes with tissues as they gushed over their time together. Kotb recalled first meeting Gifford and being invited to her home. She emotionally described an interaction with the her co-host’s late husband Frank Gifford, who let Kotb know she was going to be working with the “most trustworthy” person.
“I want to thank everyone who has watched us all these years as well because we started out as a nothing burger and we were outside on the plaza and the wind was blowing and the cards were flying and it was a disaster,” Gifford recalled.
She added, “I know somebody wonderful will be sitting in this seat afterward. I have my idea of who might be absolutely wonderful, but there’s a great pool of talent and beauty and heart right within our own family. And if they come from outside the (‘Today’) family, they will soon become family because you all treat everybody that way.”
Gifford joined the “Today” staff in 2008. She told viewers she only stayed with the show for a decade because she loved the people she was working with.
“I’ve been in this business 120 years,” she quipped, “and I’ve never worked with a more beautiful… group of people, who just give, give, give every day for four hours of live television every day five days a week… And we do life together and nobody more so than my Hoda… You’re just so special, Hoda. Thank you so much.”
Gifford has long been a staple on morning television, co-hosting “Live” with Regis Philbin for 15 years, until 2000. She earned Daytime Emmy nominations during her run with Regis, but took home her first award as a member of the “Today” staff in 2010.
She also stayed with the “Today” show as it weathered several controversies, including the ousting of disgraced host Matt Lauer amid sexual assault allegations last year and the controversial departure of Ann Curry in 2012.
In 2015, she memorably addressed a personal tragedy on the air when her husband Frank died.
NBC President Noah Oppenheim informed staff of Gifford’s departure via a company memo sent Tuesday morning.
“When we first launched this incredible hour, no one could have predicted the lightning (or rather, wine) in a bottle that is Hoda & Kathie Lee,” he wrote. “:Whether in studio or on one of their many road trips, they have delighted our audience with their distinct brand of fun, friendship and adventure. During that time, Kathie Lee has cemented her status as one of the most enduring and endearing talents in morning television. In short – she is a legend.”
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