“It’s bittersweet as these things always are, but I have been here almost 11 years,” Gifford told viewers on Tuesday morning, adding she had only originally decided to stay on longer than one year when she “fell in love with a beautiful Egyptian goddess,” referring to her cohost, Hoda Kotb.
Gifford will remain on the show’s wine-soaked fourth hour, Today With Kathie Lee and Hoda, through its 11th anniversary on April 7, 2019.
“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 said through tears.
An emotional Kotb told Gifford she owed many of her life’s blessings to Gifford’s decision to select her as cohost.
“Everything good that’s happened in my life has happened since you came,” Kotb said. “I remember thinking, How does one person step in your life and change it like that? And you did that for me.”
The morning show host has spent over a decade on the air with NBC.
Before her gig at the Today show, Gifford spent 15 years on the air, from 1985 until 2000, with Regis Philbin on ABC’s Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee.
In a memo to staff on Tuesday, NBC News President Noah Oppenheim called Gifford a legend.
“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,” he wrote.
Oppenheim said the network will “have much more to share” before Gifford’s departure about their plans for the fourth hour, which he said would continue to include Kotb, who took over as Matt Lauer’s replacement in the show’s earlier hours.
The third hour of Today had to be overhauled when NBC canceled Megyn Kelly Today in October after the show’s host made controversial comments defending blackface.