The heartbreaking news about Regis Philbin's death sent shock waves across the United States, but fans and celebrities alike are all delivering touching tributes to the longtime TV host, including his former co-host Kathie Lee Gifford. Gifford and Philbin were hosts of Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee for 15 years before she left in 2000. But after her departure, the two remained close. When Gifford battled with a very public cheating scandal involving her late husband Frank Gifford, she says Philbin stood right by her side in support of her.
"Everybody talks about the hard times that I went through that were public. And they were hard times. By any definition they were the most painful times of my life, for sure," she told PEOPLE of the 1997 scandal. "But I always knew Regis had my back. He always protected me on the air. The Bible says, 'You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.' I knew my own truth. I was never going to let what the world said about me define me. And he always supported me in all of that."
Philbin died on July 24 of heart disease and was just 88 years old. The beloved television icon had a 60-year career in the business and quickly became the face of shows like Live! and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. "There are no words to fully express the love I have for my precious friend, Regis" Gifford said in an initial post after learning of his death. "I simply adored him and every day with him was a gift. We spent 15 years together bantering and bickering and laughing ourselves silly — a tradition and a friendship we shared up to this very day."
Gifford spent her last moments with her longtime friend just weeks before his passing and even questioned to herself if that would be the last time she'd see him, confessing she felt he was struggling at the time. "We sat right here on my screened porch and we laughed ourselves sick — we always just picked up right where we left off," she said. " [...] We had the best time, and after they left, I just thought to myself, 'Lord, is that the last time I'm going to see my friend?' Because he was failing, I could tell. There has never been anyone like him. And there never will be."