Kathie Lee Gifford gets emotional during ‘Today’ farewell

SHARE Kathie Lee Gifford gets emotional during ‘Today’ farewell

This April 2, 2019 photo shows “Today” show host Kathie Lee Gifford on the set in New York. Gifford wrapped up 11 years with NBC’s “Today” show Friday with laughs, tears, Scripture and _ of course _ wine. The 65-year-old host received a standing ovation from the audience after rapper Flo Rida opened the program by singing that the studio was “Kathie Lee’s house.” | AP photo

It’s officially last call for Kathie Lee Gifford.

Her time as co-host of the fourth hour of “Today,” “Today with Kathie Lee and Hoda,” has come to a close after nearly 11 years.

In her final words, Gifford referenced a Bible verse.

“Jeremiah 29 says, ‘I know the plans I have (for) you, declares the Lord,’ ” she said, getting choked up, ” ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.’ That’s not just true for me, you guys, that’s true for everybody watching.

“Trust Him. Let Him love you like He wants to love you,” she continued. “Like I am loved by all of you.”

Gifford’s hour-long farewell included special guests and musical acts. Of course Gifford and her morning show partner Hoda Kotb celebrated with a drink, dubbed the farewell fizz made with champagne, which was appropriate to pop after they gave the entire studio audience a free cruise from Carnival.

The children also reflected on their late father Frank Gifford’s affection for their mom.

Cody recalled “how proud he was of her.”

“In the last couple years before our dad passed away (in 2015), if I was ever home and we were sitting, watching Mom at 10 a.m. he used to just always say – first, he would say, ‘Boy, you’re mom’s so pretty,’ and then he used to always say, ‘You know there’s no one else like her.’ ”

Cody and Cassidy, appropriately, ended the video by clinking their wine glasses.

An emotional Gifford hugged her son in the audience.

“Thank you,” she told him. “I love you.”

“I done now, I’m done!” Gifford then declared, rejoining Kotb on stage.

“Today” staff members then joined Kotb and Gifford on stage for a toast as she delivered her last thoughts.

At the top of the show, Flo Rida performed “Sweet sensation” and modified his song “My House” to “Kathie Lee’s House.” Gifford then said she felt “great” and reflected on why the show has worked. She reasoned it’s because they “have fun and we have a friendship and it’s real and we have a great love and affection and respect for our audience.

“We know you guys are sick of bad news by the time you turn our show on in the morning,” she added.

When Gifford asked her partner why the show has worked, Kotb said, “I think it’s because of you,” pointing out there’s a commonality between the success of their show and “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee,” which Gifford hosted with Regis Philbin from 1985 to 2000.

Philbin popped up in a recorded message, talking about the wonderful times the two shared.

“Kathie Lee you want to know the best part of my life — my TV life — was in the in the 15 years I spent with you,” he said. “We stayed friends through the entire game, and it was a lot of fun. Where you are right now, I know you’re going to be moving on to a great new career making movies, and since I’ve seen the first one, I know you’re gonna be a great success.”

He added: “I want you to know how I will always remember the great times that we had working together and how you are as a person.”

The morning also included games like a trivia showdown hosted by John Cena, which revealed “approximately how many glasses of wine have been served on this show in 11 years”: 5,300. Everyone’s favorite blue eyeglass model Al Roker lead a game of “The Masked Audience,” where mystery guests were in costume like Fox’s “The Masked Singer.”

Gifford was quick to guess Dean Cain’s identity, dressed as a fox. The chicken, actor Ryan Eggold, proved more difficult to solve.

Barry Manilow flew from Las Vegas to surprise Gifford, though he wore no costume. He performed “Can’t Smile Without You,” which Gifford joined him for.

During the 7 o’clock hour “Today,” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie said. “I can’t take it this week. Every other minute, I’m crying.”

“Today” also revisited Kotb and Gifford’s first day on the job.

“We really don’t know one another very well,” Gifford said on their debut. “And, I had a good feeling about you, obviously.”

“We had this great, long lunch and sort of sealed the deal,” she added. “If you can go to the ladies room with somebody and cry… and bond, you know you have a good future together.”

Gifford spoke with USA TODAY of her departure last week, explaining she wanted to focus on movies.

“It’s not that I wanted to leave the ‘Today’ show,” she said. “I just had to leave if I wanted to actually fulfill lifetime dreams I have that I’m running out of time for.”

She has been at Kotb’s side for nearly 11 years, a decade longer than she’d planned. She said she “came kicking and screaming” to the morning show she revealed she’d be leaving in December. Her late husband, football player turned sports commentator Frank Gifford, persuaded her to give it a year.

“By that time I’d fallen in love with Hoda, and a couple of years in I was in love with everybody that I worked with there,” Gifford said. “Nicest group of people I’ve ever, ever worked with.”

For her second morning show exit, Gifford predicted she wouldn’t be crying hysterically.

“I certainly won’t bawl like a baby,” she said. “I’ve been in this business too long, and it’s not like I’m dying, and it’s not like I’m never gonna see these lovely people ever again. I’m leaving one particular job and one particular building for something that I’ve been wanting to do my whole life, and I have so much to look forward to. So it’s not a sad thing for me.”

NBC announced Jenna Bush Hager would be Gifford’s replacement in late February.

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