Kathie Lee Gifford sat alongside Hoda Kotb for 11 years as they starred on the lighthearted fourth hour of the Today Show. They were one of the most well known duos of morning television and offered viewers a dose of fun in the midst of what can often be a pretty grim news cycle. In December of 2018, Gifford announced that she’d be retiring from the show to pursue her lifelong dream of writing and starring in movies. Upon the announcement of her departure, there was a buzz of speculation about who would take her place as Kotb’s new sidekick. It was ultimately Jenna Bush Hager who would be awarded the opportunity, according to Page Six.
Hager, the daughter of former president George Bush, has acted as an occasional correspondent for Today for years. She also frequently filled in for Gifford while she was away on assignment or on vacation. Now, Hager finally has a dressing room at the studio with her own name on the door. Of course, it’s just a post-it-note for right now but Hager couldn’t be more grateful, showing it off on the show’s new Instagram page.
Monday was Hager’s first day on the job and it was filled with laughter, wine, and some tears. The new co-host was so overwhelmed with all the emotion that she forgot to publicly thank Gifford for the sweet gift she left for her prior to her debut. On Tuesday’s show, she revealed the silver bracelet gifted to her by her predecessor. It is engraved with one of Gifford’s most famous catchphrases, Hager said.
“[Kathie Lee] left me a bracelet that says, ‘Your joy is non-negotiable. I can’t believe I forgot. What is wrong with me?!”
While Hager had plenty of people, including Gifford, rooting for her success prior to the big day, she admitted she was pretty nervous the night before, according to People.
“I got in bed and I was calm. [Husband] Henry and I went out for a date night,” she said on-air, adding that they put on 60 Minutes.
“I got on Instagram right before bed and I saw our new Instagram page… At first, I was like, ‘My head looks huge!’ But then I got over that.. And I just screamed and I woke him up… Then I got really hyper. And Henry said he was about to tranquilize me, and then I feel asleep.”
On Hager’s first day, she was presented with a video message from friends and family wishing her good luck and congratulations. Her presidential parents, sister, husband Henry, and daughters all contributed to the emotional clip.