After more than 10 years on NBC’s “Today,” Kathie Lee Gifford is stepping down as co-host of the fourth hour with Hoda Kotb. Now, the show announced that Jenna Bush Hager will take her place beginning later this year.
Gifford first announced her departure back in December 2018, at which time she said she would be retiring from the show in 2019 to focus on other projects. Gifford’s last day will be on April 5, 2019, just two days shy of her 11th anniversary with the show.
Hager joined “Today” in 2009 and has taken on a range of duties, including filling in for Gifford at times. She expressed excitement to take on her new role during the show on Feb. 26. “It feels humbling and I can’t believe it,” Hager said.
The former first daughter went on to reveal that her dad, former President George W. Bush, texted her with words of congratulations after he learned of her new job.
“My dad just wrote me three words, which made me weep. He said, ‘Very proud dad,'” she said. “Which I’m like, ‘What is there to be proud about? I’m just drinking wine in the morning!'”
Hager told Gifford she considers her a role model, and the departing host offered praise in kind.
“You keep trusting your instincts and you’re going to sit next to the best person in the whole world because she has your back, because she has your heart,” Gifford said, referencing co-host Kotb. “It’s going to be fun. You guys are going to have a ball.”
Kotb, too, offered words of encouragement.
“Being around Jenna is like being around the most real person,” Kotb told People. “She says exactly what she thinks and believes and there’s something about her that makes you do two things. You lean in because you want to know more and also you kind of weirdly tell her your secrets and you’re like ‘Oh my God, I just blurted all that out!'”