Kathie Lee Gifford, who has hosted the Today Show’s fourth hour alongside Hoda Kotb for the last decade, announced on December 11 that she would be leaving the morning talk show in April of 2019 after celebrating her 11-year anniversary, reported People Magazine.
The cast and crew were “reeling” in reaction to news of her surprise exit.
The bombshell announcement, which was delivered by NBC News president Noah Oppenheim to staff in a memo earlier in the day, left the Today team reeling, according to a source.
“She always signed one-year contracts and she would always say, ‘This is my last year,’ but nobody ever thought she was actually going to leave,” a source close to the show told People.
“Last year, they asked her to please stay [after Matt Lauer was fired] because there were so many changes going on, so she did. Now that she’s really leaving, it’s just really sad,” the source continued.
“People are so sad she is leaving. People were sobbing,” the source continues. “People are so happy for her and she will, of course, stick around. She’ll be back here and there for sure. Everybody really loves working with her, so it’s sad for her to go. People are going to genuinely miss her. They know how excited she is about her movies and music, but selfishly people love her. She’s a legend,” concluded the People source.
The People source also alleges that after leaving Today, Gifford will be spending more time in Nashville, where she produces religious movies and music, as well as Los Angeles, where her adult children Cassidy and Cody live.
During the heartfelt announcement, Gifford said there was one reason she stayed on Today as long as she did.
“I’ve been here almost 11 years. I thought I would stay one year, but something happened along the way: I fell in love with a beautiful Egyptian goddess,” she said, referring to her co-host Kotb.
Page Six reported that producers “begged” Gifford to remain on the daytime talk and news series.
Despite their requests, Gifford wants to move forward in her career. She noted that she believes she has an idea of someone who would be absolutely “wonderful” to sit alongside Kotb and take her place next year.
Rumor has it that both Gifford and the Today Show are eyeing Today contributor Jenna Bush Hager to fill the stalwart host’s seat.
Hager has been a frequent presence on the show, joining co-host Kotb over the summer when Gifford was away in Scotland shooting a movie she also wrote.
The Today Show airs daily on NBC.