Kathie Lee Gifford, one half of "Today's" fourth hour, will depart the program in the spring, she announced on the air Tuesday morning.
Calling her spring departure "bittersweet, as these things always are," her own announcement was preceded by an internal announcement — first posted on the trades — in which NBC News president Noah Oppenheim wrote that "Kathie Lee is generously staying with us through the show’s next anniversary, April 7, 2019. We will have much more to share before then about our plans for that hour, which will, of course, continue to include Hoda (Kotb)."
Neither Oppenheim nor Gifford, 65, addressed the meaning of "bittersweet," but she was subject to a round of rumors in November (which made the tabloid press) that said she was to be dropped from the show as the network explored a new direction for the fourth hour in the wake of Megyn Kelly's departure from the third.
In the memo, Oppenheim wrote: "As we all know, Kathie Lee’s plate has been overflowing lately with film, music and book projects, and after giving us 11 extraordinary years, she’s decided to focus her attention full-time on those other creative endeavors."
He added that during her decadelong run on the show, "Kathie Lee has cemented her status as one of the most enduring and endearing talents in morning television. In short — she is a legend."
Indeed, for 15 years she was the other half of "Live With Regis and Kathie Lee" — Regis, of course, meaning Regis Philbin — and established a popular midmorning beachhead that would eventually persuade NBC to expand "Today."