Sitting down to her last glass of wine on the set next to Kotb, Gifford said it was all about remembering “why this show worked in the beginning ― because we 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 on our show in the morning,” she added. “We don’t want to be more bad news for you.”
Kotb was filled with praise for her longtime friend, crediting her for making the program a success, saying, “Two shows have worked really well in the history of daytime television ― ‘Regis and Kathie Lee’ and Kathie Lee and me. So what is the common denominator between those two?”
A handful of celebrity guests delivered tributes to Gifford, including Barry Manilow, John Cena and Flo Rida, who performed a special rendition of his hit “My House,” substituting “Kathie Lee’s house” in the lyrics.
Gifford announced her exit in December, revealing that she had intended to spend only a year on the broadcast but changed her mind because she “fell in love” with Kotb.
When she broke the news, Gifford alluded to upcoming projects, suggesting she would keep busy after leaving the show.
In February, it was announced that Jenna Bush Hager, who periodically filled in for Gifford, would replace her as co-host.
Waving farewell to her “Today” family, Gifford welcomed her colleagues on stage and delivered a parting message with a biblical quote:
I have 30 seconds to say what has taken me a lifetime to say. Jeremiah 29 says, “‘I know the plans I have you,’ declares the Lord, ‘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 like he wants to love you, like I am loved by all of you. Thank you.