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Kathie Lee Gifford’s announcement about her impending departure from TODAY brought out tears from coworkers and fans — as did the idea of breaking up a decades-long partnership with the woman who also became her cherished friend.
Hoda Kotb paid tribute to that special bond Wednesday when Kathie Lee joined her colleagues to discuss her retirement from TODAY’s fourth hour, which she has co-hosted with Hoda since 2008.
“I always felt sitting next to you was like a master class in this broadcasting business, because nobody, nobody, nobody does it like you do it,” Hoda said. “Nobody ever has and nobody ever will. You are all by yourself. And I think everything is contagious. Your fearlessness is contagious.”
On Tuesday, Kathie Lee, 65, announced the “bittersweet” news that she would be retiring from the program on April 7, 2019 — the 11th anniversary of her program. She explained she has been wanting to work on numerous passion projects for the past several years.
“All these other projects have been bubbling up in me, and so exciting — the movies and music and just so many wonderful things. And I need the time for them to do them properly,” she told her TODAY colleagues Wednesday.
Kathie Lee said she informed her bosses nearly two years ago about her decision to leave, saying she wanted to step down from the job at her 10-year anniversary this past April.
“So that was the arrangement until we had some turmoil here in our midst,” she said.
Kathie Lee said she was asked to stay a little longer and she agreed.
“I said, I don’t want to leave, I just have to do my other stuff. So I said if you guys can work it out for me, that I can still do my projects, I’ll stay,” she said. “And I was thrilled with that decision, but now there are like six other projects.”
This past April, Kathie Lee and Hoda celebrated a decade together with tributes from friends and celebrities they've had fun with over the years.
Hoda noted that Kathie Lee shared some of her biggest moments, including the death of her husband, Frank Gifford, with her TODAY family.
“I don’t think we can underestimate what an impact you’ve had,” Hoda said. “People grew up watching you, and by the way, they’ve watched you through every stage of your life — your marriage, your children, losing Frank. Full circle life.”
But Kathie Lee reminded everyone that she still has many things she wants to achieve.
“Life is not over until the Lord takes you home. You got a pulse, you’ve got a purpose,” she said.
She also spoke about how much she’ll soon miss sitting next to her friend and co-anchor every morning.
“Whoever gets the privilege of sitting next to you is going to have the time of their life, and the friend for life,” she said.