Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC
March 31, 2008 12:00 AM

Kathie Lee Gifford was lurking behind Matt Lauer‘s back on Monday morning’s Today show as he made the big announcement that the former Live! co-host will become a Today regular next Monday, April 7 — in the NBC powerhouse morning show’s 10 a.m. fourth hour.

She will share the camera alongside Hoda Kotb, whom Gifford, 54, credited with wooing her back to a regular gig after have bid former ABC cohort Regis Philbin adieu in 2000, after the two had been together for 15 years.

She also said her son, Cody, was leaving for college in the fall.

“It couldn’t be worse timing, in some ways,” Gifford, once she sat alongside Lauer on the Today sofa, said on Monday. “I’m eight years older, 10 pounds heavier and half-an-inch shorter — just in time for HD television.”

First a singer-actress, the former Kathryn Lee Epstein shot to fame in the 1970s with appearances on Name That Tune and then in the mid-1980s as a co-host on The Morning Show with Philbin, first on WABC-TV in New York and then nationally in 1988, when it became Live!

During his lengthy introduction of Gifford, Lauer also touched upon the sweatshop scandal that plagued her clothing line in the 1990s, and how she “turned anger into action” and became an advocate for children with special needs.

Lauer also described Gifford as “no stranger to the morning grind, fearless and, from time to time, a little untamed.” — Stephen M. SilvermanCredit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

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