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Hoda Kotb in tears after Kathie Lee Gifford announces ‘Today’ exit

Kathie Lee Gifford announced Tuesday that she is leaving “Today” after 11 years on the show. She will sign off in April to persue other projects. (Richard Shotwell / Invision/AP)
Kathie Lee Gifford announced Tuesday that she is leaving “Today” after 11 years on the show. She will sign off in April to persue other projects. (Richard Shotwell / Invision/AP)
By Nardine Saad Los Angeles Times

Kathie Lee Gifford’s announcement that she’s leaving NBC’s “Today” show reduced her on-air BFF Hoda Kotb to a sea of tears on Tuesday, and their life preserver was the box of tissues that a prop master dropped from the ceiling.

Kotb, who knew about Gifford’s departure before the live announcement, was still emotional afterward, telling her longtime co-host that she had changed her life.

“The minute you stepped into my life with both feet, everything changed,” Kotb said through tears, prompting the tissue-box drop.

“You chose me and that’s how it started,” she added. “I was thinking about everything good that’s happened in my life has happened since you came.”

Kotb, who has become a fan favorite since co-hosting the freewheeling 10 a.m. hour of the program with Gifford since 2008, said Gifford hiring her enabled her to meet husband Joel Schiffman and adopt their daughter, Haley Joy Kotb. Gifford also invited Kotb to meet her family when she first joined the “Today” team.

“Everything happened. … How does one person step in your life and change it like that? And you did that for me,” Kotb said.

Gifford, who will officially sign off the show in April, referred to Kotb as “a beautiful Egyptian goddess” and thanked their viewers for sticking with them from their disastrous early days as a “nothing burger” outside on the plaza.

“You start sharing life, and your friendship shows up on the air,” Gifford said. “We weren’t colleagues very long. We became friends and now we’re going to be friends for the rest of our lives.

“I’m grateful to God for you,” Gifford added. “God’s used you in my life every bit as much as he’s used me in yours, sweetie. That’s the way it goes. No crumbs on his table.”

Gifford has co-anchored “Today’s” fourth hour with Kotb for the last decade and is retiring from the program to pursue other creative endeavors.

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