Kelly Ripa made a return to Live With Kelly and Michael on after a nearly one-week absence. The longtime Live co-host took four days off from work after it was announced that that her co-star, Michael Strahan, was leaving the show. Ripa was blindsided by the casting news, and was told about it on the same day that ABC made the announcement to the press.
In a surprising move after her week-long hiatus, Kelly took the stage solo — to a standing ovation, no less — to try to explain to why she reacted the way she did to Strahan's announcement. Turns out it was all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
"Our long national nightmare is over," Ripa joked before revealing that she needed some time to process the news about her co-host.
"I needed a couple of days to get my thoughts together," Kelly said. "After 26 years with this company, I earned the right."Ripa went on to tout the importance of communication and respect in the workplace, and she said this has opened up a new conversation with ABC. Kelly also said she considers the network her family. And after rumors that the morning talk show could be put on the back burner, Kelly Ripa also delivered the news that she has now been told that Live is a priority for ABC. She also said she has no hard feelings toward Michael Strahan.
"I am thrilled for Michael," she said. "I couldn't be prouder of you."
Michael said he was happy to have Kelly back at the table and he thanked her for taking him under her wing four years ago. Michael also dubbed Kelly "The Queen of Morning TV." All in all, it was a lovefest once Ripa made her opening spiel. You can see Kelly Ripa's entire speech in the video below.Kelly Ripa and her husband, Mark Consuelos, had already had a planned 20th wedding anniversary vacation for two of the days she took off, but after the blindside, she started her vacation two days early.
According to CNN, Ripa received a personal apology from top ABC executives ahead of her return to the show. Ripa was blindsided by the news that Strahan would be leaving Live to join Good Morning America, so Disney-ABC Television Group president Ben Sherwood and his leadership team reportedly reached out to Ripa and "expressed regret for the way Kelly was told the news."
Over the weekend, Strahan also apologized to Ripa, according to the Wrap. A source said Kelly "appreciated the apology," and it certainly smoothed things over before her highly anticipated Live return.Ripa will continue to work with Strahan through the summer, and he'll head to Good Morning America in the fall. The "auditions" for his replacement will likely follow the previous "rotating co-host" model. After Regis Philbin left Live in 2011, there was a 10-month search to fill his spot, with everyone from Nick Lachey to Josh Groban trying out for the role.
When it was first announced that he would exit Live With Kelly and Michael later this year to move to Good Morning America alongside Robin Roberts, Lara Spencer, Ginger Zee, and George Stephanopoulos, Strahan said the move would be "bittersweet" for him.
"My time with Live with Kelly and Michael has been transformative, and my departure will be bittersweet. Kelly has been an unbelievable partner, and I am so thankful to her and the entire team. I am extremely grateful for the amazing support I've received from all of the fans," he said.
Kelly Ripa also thanked the fans for all of their support during her week-long hiatus, saying she was "overwhelmed" by all of the love she received from Live viewers.
[Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]