Tears were flowing hard and steady on the set of the Today show on Tuesday. After 11 years of delighting Today show audiences during the show's fourth hour, Hoda & Kathie Lee, Kathie Lee Gifford announced her departure from the NBC morning show.
Hoda Kotb broke down in tears while saying goodbye to her close friend and co-anchor.
"The minute you stepped into my life with both feet, everything changed," Kotb said through tears to Gifford.
"You chose me. And that's how it started," she continued. "I was thinking about everything good that's happened in my life has happened since you came. I was even thinking about everything from — I met [boyfriend Joel Schiffman] because I had to give a speech. Why did I give a speech? Because I worked here. Because I worked with you. I wouldn't have been there that day. I met him. [Daughter Haley Joy Kotb] came as a result of our union, me and Joel."
She went on, "I remember thinking about how does one person step into your life and change it like that? You did that for me."
"It's bittersweet, as these things always are," Gifford said in her announcement, adding that she thought she would stay just one year on the show and instead "fell in love with a beautiful Egyptian goddess" and has been there for almost 11 years.
"It's an exciting time for me and I'm thrilled about the projects that are coming up, but it's also hard because the reason I stayed longer than a year is because I loved everybody so much," she said.
"It's going to be the same way it did with Regis [Philbin]. When I left Regis it was hard, but I'm closer to him now than we were after 15 years together. You don't share that kind of life together and not be changed forever by it," she continued.
"So I love you, Hoda Mama ... You're just so special, Hoda, thank you. Thank you so much," Gifford said.
The 65-year-old will stay on until Hoda and Kathie Lee's 11th anniversary on April 7, 2019.
"We will have much more to share before then about our plans for that hour, which will, of course, continue to include Hoda," NBC News chief Noah Oppenheim announced in a memo on Tuesday, according to Deadline.0comments
"When we first launched this incredible hour, no one could have predicted the lightning (or rather, wine) in a bottle that is Hoda & Kathie Lee. Whether in studio or on one of their many road trips, they have delighted our audience with their distinct brand of fun, friendship and adventure. During that time, Kathie Lee has cemented her status as one of the most enduring and endearing talents in morning television. In short – she is a legend," Oppenheim wrote.
Prior to her run on Today, Gifford served as co-host on Live With Regis and Kathie Lee alongside Regis Philbin for 15 years. Before that, she was a correspondent on Good Morning America for three years.