How Matt Lauer ‘Today Show’ Firing Influenced Kathie Lee Gifford’s Decision to Exit

It was announced on Tuesday that Kathie Lee Gifford will be leaving the Today show in the spring after over 10 years hosting the morning show's fourth hour alongside Hoda Kotb, but it seems the 65-year-old had initially planned to exit much earlier.

Gifford previously told PEOPLE that she had informed NBC in January 2017 that she would be leaving Today at the end of the year, but Matt Lauer's firing threw a serious wrench in those plans.

“You get to a point of your life where you run out of time to do what you want to do," she said, revealing that she was planning to leave the show to pursue film projects.

"Things changed," Gifford said of the show after Lauer's firing. “Some things were painful for us. And we had to adjust, and then they said, ‘If we accommodate your schedule, will you consider staying?’ I wasn’t looking to get out, but I needed the time. So when they accommodated the schedule, then there was no reason to leave...There’s no better place in a 50-year career. It all worked out, so I’m staying.””

After Lauer was ousted, Kotb took his spot as Today host, though she also remained on the fourth hour with Gifford, who was eager to gush about her "wonderful" co-host.

“I cant think about a more beloved person than Hoda at the show,” Gifford said. “Everybody universally adores her. She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. She’s more loving and kind, so when these wonderful things started happening for this wonderful woman, we were thrilled for her.”

The news of Gifford's exit was confirmed in a memo from NBC News chief Noah Oppenheim, who called the host "a legend."

"It is with mixed emotions that I share the news Kathie Lee Gifford has decided it’s time to leave TODAY," the memo read. "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."

"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 continued. "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."

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Gifford will officially leave Today after her 11th anniversary on April 7, 2019.

Photo Credit: NBC