During Monday’s episode, Gifford explained her reason for leaving, saying she plans to focus more on a variety of media projects. “It’s an exciting time for me, and I’m thrilled about all the projects that are coming up, but it’s also hard,” Gifford explained, calling the decision “bittersweet, as these things are.”
Don’t count her out just yet, though — Gifford intends to stay on Today through April 7, 2019, which will mark her 11th anniversary cohosting alongside Hoda Kotb.
As Gifford tells it, it is her cohost who inspired her to stay at Today for so long in the first place.
“I’ve been here almost 11 years. Thought I would stay here one year, but something happened along the way — fell in love with a beautiful Egyptian goddess,” Gifford explained, getting choked up as she pointed to Kotb and continuing, “and now when it’s our 11th anniversary, I’m going to be leaving the Today show.”
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) December 11, 2018
Gifford alluded to her storied history in the daytime television industry, joking, “I’ve been in this business 120 years and never worked with a more beautiful group of people who just give, give, give every day.”
While fans may be worried about the Gifford-size hole left in Kotb’s heart after the departure, the two will undoubtedly still be in each other’s lives. In fact, Gifford predicts the distance will only strengthen their bond.
“We do life together, and nobody more so than my Hoda,” Gifford said. “It’s gonna happen the same way it did with Regis [Philbin]. When I left Regis, it was hard, but I’m closer to him now than we were after 15 years together. You don’t share that kind of life together and not be changed forever by it.”
After Gifford expressed her gratitude to her friend and costar, Kotb responded in kind (or at least attempted to!). “The minute you stepped into my life with both feet, everything changed… you chose me, and that’s how it started. Everything good in my life has happened since you came,” Kotb said, struggling to speak through her emotions.
The announcement of Gifford’s departure follows closely on the heals of network’s decision to cancel Megyn Kelly’s segment of the program, which occurred during the third hour. At the time of cancellation, NBC said the 9 a.m. hour would return to a more traditional Today format.
In the meantime, Today’s other anchors and personalities — think Craig Melvin, Al Roker, Jenna Bush Hager, Sheinelle Jones and more — are filling in as temporary hosts.
It’s tough to imagine who could fill Gifford’s shoes, especially because she and Kotb have become an iconic duo as the wine-drinking, freewheeling members of the Today team. Who could come close to replicating the kind of natural chemistry these two have shared?
“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,” said NBC News’ president, Noah Oppenheim, via a statement published in Variety’s report. “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.”
We couldn’t agree more. Here’s to squeezing every drop of fun out (or pouring it from the bottle) of Gifford’s last four months on Today.