Kathie Lee Gifford has broken her silence on her exit from The Today Show after more than a decade on the air.
Gifford is stepping away from the acclaimed morning show, leaving many fans and co-workers emotional. Gifford herself has strong feelings as well, as Today has been her home for more than ten years. However, from the sound of it, she has many other opportunities worth pursuing. After reports of her exit began to circulate, she issued a personal statement on Tuesday morning's show.
"I have something to share with everybody," she began. "It's bittersweet, as these things always are. But, I've been here almost 11 years. Thought I would stay one year. Something happened along the way: I fell in love with a beautiful Egyptian goddess."
"And now, when it's our 11th anniversary, I'm going to be leaving the 'Today' show," Gifford went on. "It's an exciting time for me, and I'm thrilled about all the projects that are coming up. But it's also hard, because the reason I stayed longer than a year is because I love everybody here so much."
Gifford's departure from The Today Show was rumored for some time, but it was finally confirmed on Tuesday morning. NBC News chief Noah Oppenheim verified the story in a memo first obtained by Deadline.
"It is with mixed emotions that I share the news Kathie Lee Gifford has decided it’s time to leave TODAY," he wrote. "As we all know, Kathie Lee’s plate has been overflowing lately with film, music and book projects, and after giving us eleven extraordinary years, she’s decided to focus her attention full-time on those other creative endeavors."
Oppenheim credited the success of the Today Show's later hours largely to Gifford herself, feeling that her unique hosting made the continuing coverage possible.
"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," Oppenheim joked. "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."
While Gifford is stepping away from the show, fans have a few more months to enjoy their mornings with her. Oppenheim's memo stated that she would remain on Today until April 7, 2019. Meanwhile, her co-host Hoda Kotb will continue to appear in the fourth hour. Oppenheim included a quote from Gifford about her friendship with Kotb both on and off the air.
“In 2008, I joined the TODAY Show family intending to spend one year," she said. "But something unexpected happened along the way: I fell in love with a beautiful, talented, extraordinary Egyptian goddess named Hoda, and an amazing group of individuals who work tirelessly and joyfully at their jobs, many of them starting at midnight, creating an unprecedented four hours of live television. I stayed year after year making a million memories with people I will never forget. I leave TODAY with a grateful heart but I’m truly excited for this new creative season in my life. Many thanks to all the wonderful people who made the years fly by.”
The Today Show airs on weekdays at 7 a.m. ET on NBC.