Ahead of Kathie Lee Gifford's final week as a host of the Today Show, series alum Meredith Vieira looked back at her time on daytime TV, which included her as the original moderator on ABC's The View.
At a farewell party for Gifford, Vieira spoke about the drama surrounding The View co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, whose tenure and controversial firing has received a lot of attention recently following the release of her new memoir.
"I loved working with Elisabeth, I think she was great," Vieira told Entertainment Tonight. "I felt like she was a daughter to me."
Vieira said she often "worried" about Hasselbeck because of the possibility that she was being pigeonholed as a one-dimensional voice of the right thanks to her conservative-leaning political stances.
"I felt that they were trying to make her into the conservative voice and put words in her mouth, and I don't think that's a good place to be," Vieira, 65, said. "When you're new in television, sometimes you agree to things you might not otherwise. And when you're trying to find your voice, it's important that, that voice be authentic."
"So, I feel she took a lot of heat for things she might not necessarily have believed in wholeheartedly," she added.
Hasselbeck revealed in her new book, Point of View: A Fresh Look at Work, Faith, and Freedom, how she was fired from The View after 10 years: without warning, by one of the show's producers and an ABC executive. She said she was left feeling "shock [and] betrayal."
Vieira, who worked with Hasselbeck on the talk show from seasons 6 to 9 (but left long before Hasselbeck's exit in season 16 in 2013), said she "didn't know she'd been fired."
Even if Vieira had been around for the dramatic exit, she said she likely may not have seen all the chaos that went with it, because she'll often "miss a lot of stuff" that goes down.
"Every job I've had, I go in and I get out," she recalled. "When I did the Today show, I never went to my office [in 30 Rockefeller Plaza]. I never went near it because people wore suits and I just thought, 'No good can come of this.'"
"I stayed in my dressing room. I got in at 5 a.m., did the show, got changed and took off, because I wanted to be home or I had [Who Wants to Be a Millionaire], for a certain number of weeks out of the year. So I missed a lot of the intrigue, certainly, with The View, for the same reason. I would do the show and then go home."
She also spoke about her friendship with Gifford, who announced earlier this year would leave the Today show after 11 years.
"She's funny, she's smart, she's got a little bit of sarcasm to her, she tells the truth, she has the biggest heart," Vieira said. "She makes you feel like you're home."
While she said she loves Gifford's "kookiness," she also admired her tenacity after her husband, Frank Gifford, died in August 2015.
"But she showed who she was when her husband, Frank died, and she came and spoke on the air about that," Vieira recalled. "She was so moving and it was real, how she handled that loss and that love that was gone."
"I'm watching that and I thought, 'Boy, for all other people who are watching, who are going through something in their life at that moment, how calming she must have been for them and reassuring [them] that it will be okay,'" she added.0comments
Gifford's final episode of the Today show will air Friday, April 5, after which Jenna Bush Hagar is set to step into the co-host seat alongside Hoda Kotb.
Photo credit: Sylvain Gaboury / Staff / Getty