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Jenna Bush Hager will join Hoda Kotb as the permanent co-host of TODAY’s fourth hour later this year.
The announcement comes less than three months after Kathie Lee Gifford revealed she will step down as Hoda’s partner for the fourth hour in April.
“It feels humbling and I can’t believe it,” Jenna said on the show Tuesday morning.
She shared with Hoda and Kathie Lee what her father, former President George W. Bush, told her after learning the news.
“My dad just wrote me three words, which made me weep. He said, ‘Very proud dad,’” Jenna said, her voice cracking, before she joked, “Which I’m like, what is there to be proud about? I’m just drinking wine in the morning!”
She then offered kind words to Kathie Lee: “You have been such a role model and so generous with your time. … You are beloved here in so many ways and if I can use some of your grace and have a half of what you’ve done, my life will be a very happy one.”
Kathie Lee returned the favor, telling Jenna, “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. It’s going to be fun. You guys are going to have a ball.”
The congratulations quickly poured in after the announcement was made:
Jenna joined the TODAY family in 2009 and has worn many hats since. She’s interviewed big names from Joanna Gaines to former first lady Michelle Obama; introduced us to many inspirational people through her reporting; and moved us with her touching (and sometimes hilarious) stories about her family, from her late Gampy and Ganny to her little girls, Mila and Poppy.
In an email to staffers, NBC News chief Noah Oppenheim wrote that Jenna’s “compassion and curiosity come through in all of her stories, along with her Texas-sized sense of humor.” Oppenheim also noted that “while it’s bittersweet to say goodbye to Kathie Lee, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to make some changes at 10 a.m.”
Kathie Lee informed viewers in December of her decision to retire from TODAY around the time of her 11th anniversary with the show. She said that while she was thrilled to dive into all of her upcoming projects, “it’s also hard” to step away.
“I’ve been in this business 120 years and never worked with a more beautiful group of people who just give, give, give every day,” Kathie Lee said.
Stay tuned for more announcements regarding the fourth hour in the coming months!