Kathie Lee Gifford: I'm 'Relieved' After Announcing 'Today' Exit

A weight off her chest. Kathie Lee Gifford announced her departure from Today on Tuesday, December 11, after almost 11 years of hosting. The 65-year-old is now opening up about how she’s feeling and the process of coming to the decision.

“I feel so relieved because I’ve known it was coming for a long, long time,” Gifford said on air on Wednesday, December 12. “You want to get your story out before somebody else tries to tell your story in an inaccurate way.”

The “He Saw Jesus” singer told her cohosts that she actually informed her bosses about her plans to leave two years ago and planned to complete her 10th season before saying goodbye. Gifford explained that her decision changed, however, after there was “turmoil here in our midst” (Today vet Matt Lauer was fired by NBC in November 2017 following sexual misconduct allegations) and NBC News chief Noah Oppenheim asked her to stay “a little longer.”

Gifford continued: “Hoda [Kotb]’s known it for a long, long time. All these other projects have been bubbling up in me and [are] so exciting — movies and music and so many wonderful things. I need the time for them to do them properly.”

Kotb, 54, couldn’t help but gush over her longtime cohost and friend’s career. “I don’t think we can underestimate the impact you’ve had — people grew up watching [you]. And, by the way, they’ve watched every stage of your life — your marriage, your children, you know, losing [husband] Frank [Gifford]; full-circle life,” she said.

A source told Us Weekly on Tuesday that Gifford’s main reason for leaving was to pursue other projects. “Kathie Lee was just tired. She’s been doing the same morning show routine for decades,” the source noted. “Before Today, she was live with Regis [Philbin] for 15 years. She’s ready to try something new! She’s excited to take on a new stage in her career and throw herself into new challenges.”

Us also obtained a copy of a memo written by Oppenheim in which he reiterated the sentiment. “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,” he wrote.

Gifford will continue hosting the NBC morning show’s fourth hour alongside Kotb until April 7, 2019.

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