Jenna Bush Officially Crowned New ‘Today’ Hour 4 Co-Host, First Of “Many” Changes Says Noah Oppenheim

NBC News

Confirming the worst kept secret in morning show TV, NBC News president Noah Oppenheim made it official Tuesday: former First Daughter Jenna Bush Hager is replacing Kathie Lee Gifford on the fourth hour of Today.

“Jenna joined Today nearly ten years ago and she quickly became a fixture in our family,” said Oppenheim. That’s quite a statement, given that Oppenheim’s the exec who previously got burned reaching for bright shiny lights from outside the family for his Today franchise, including Jenna’s relative Billy Bush, and then Megyn Kelly.

“Her compassion and curiosity come through in all of her stories, along with her Texas-sized sense of humor,” Oppenheim enthused of Jenna Bush in his memo to staff. Gifford and co-host Hoda Kotb announced the news during Tuesday’s broadcast:

It’s been little more than two months since Oppenheim announced Gifford has decided to exit Today, where she has hosted the final hour of the four-hour franchise since 2008. Kathie Lee made it official to viewers during that day’s broadcast.

Back then, insiders indicated to Deadline that Today celebrity correspondent Jenna Bush, who had just returned to work after taking time off to mourn the death of her grandfather, President George H.W. Bush, and who often showed up on Hour 4, would replace Kathie Lee, though she already had started doing heavy lifting on the Today third hour vacated by Kelly.

It can’t have hurt Bush’s standing in the decision making that viewers immediately liked what they saw with that Today hour’s return to a more traditional format, helmed most often by Bush, Craig Melvin and Al Roker. And, the new host lineup had had an immediate, positive ratings effect on the fourth hour of Today that Bush will now co-helm with Kotb.

Speaking thereof, in today’s memo to staff, Oppenheim said it’s “bittersweet to say goodbye to Kathie Lee” but “we are thrilled to have the opportunity to make some changes at 10 AM” calling the Bush official unveiling “just the first of many.”

“The show is evolving, and we will have additional announcements to share with you in the coming months. In the meantime, please join me in wishing Jenna a big congratulations,” he concluded.

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