NBC News chief Noah Oppenheim announced this morning that Kathie Lee Gifford has decided to exit Today show, where she has hosted the final hour of the four-hour franchise since 2008. Kathie Lee made it official to viewers during the broadcast.

Today celebrity correspondent Jenna Bush Hager, who returned to work Monday after taking a week off to mourn the death of her grandfather, President George H.W. Bush, and who often shows up on Hour 4,  is odds-on fave to replace Kathie Lee, though Hager already is doing heavy lifting on the Today hour recently vacated by Megyn Kelly.

But Gifford, while paying homage to her “beautiful Egyptian goddess” co-host Hoda Kotb during this morning’s traditional “bittersweet” on-air exit announcement, said only “I know somebody wonderful will be sitting in this seat afterwards” adding, “I have my idea of who might be absolutely wonderful –  but there is a great pool of talent and beauty and heart right within our family.”

Then, maybe thinking she’d said too much, Kathie Lee added, “And, if they come from outside the family they will soon become family, because you all treat everybody that way.”

Today show has a catastrophic recent history of bring in people “from outside the company” to host: aka Billy Bush, Megyn Kelly.

 

From: “Noah Oppenheim

Subject: KLG

All,

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

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.  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.

Jimmy Fallon summed it up best when he channelled Kenny Rogers on the tenth anniversary show earlier this year:  Through the years, Kathie Lee has never let us down, she’s turned our lives around and she’s brought some of the sweetest days we’ve found…

As Kathie Lee told me today: “In 2008, I joined the TODAY Show family intending to spend one year. 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.”

Kathie Lee is generously staying with us through the show’s next anniversary, 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.

Please join me in congratulating Kathie Lee on a dazzling run at TODAY. We look forward to celebrating her in the months to come.

Noah