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Kathie Lee Gifford bids a tearful farewell to ‘Today’ and co-host Hoda Kotb

By Christie D’Zurilla • Apr 8, 2019 at 8:17 PM

“I feel like we’ll be friends.”

That’s what Kathie Lee Gifford said to Hoda Kotb when the “Today” hosts first met, and Kotb was simply blown away by the woman she was meeting. Turns out Gifford was putting it mildly.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever had that chemistry where you connect with someone like that,” Kotb said in a tearful “Today” segment celebrating their 11-year friendship, which ended professionally Friday. “I had it! And I didn’t realize what it meant. Sometimes things that intense can’t last, but this did, and it’s amazing.”

As Gifford departed the “Today” show Friday, she left Kotb behind to pick up the reins with new partner Jenna Bush Hager, who started Monday. But the bond between Hoda and Kathie Lee is one for the ages.

“I hope she knows how much I love her,” Gifford said of Kotb, dabbing away tears. “When I love, I love with my entire being, as long as I’m here with a pulse. That’s how I love. And it hurts; that kind of love hurts. But I can’t imagine living one moment of life without it.”

And the feeling seems mutual.

“I didn’t know that at a certain time in your life, later in your life, you could make lifelong friends. I just didn’t think you could,” Kotb said. “I thought you made all your lifelong friends a while ago. But to be able to experience that again at this stage in my life is amazing.”

Despite being tired of the daily TV grind, Gifford had been persuaded to stay on the show an additional year after Matt Lauer was forced out at the network in November 2017.

NBC News President Noah Oppenheim said in a memo to the staff in December that Gifford was leaving to focus on her feature film, music and book projects. She’ll reportedly spend more time on the West Coast.

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