Kathie Lee Gifford Preaches 'Forgiveness' After Matt Lauer Firing, Recalls Husband Frank's Affair
On Wednesday, Kathie Lee and her Today co-host Hoda Kotb opened their 10 a.m. hour by addressing the bombshell news that Lauer, 59, had been terminated by NBC News after the network received a “detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior,” with reason to believe “this may not have been an isolated incident.” The news was announced Wednesday morning by Kotb and a visibly shaken Savannah Guthrie.
“It’s a very, very sad day here at NBC,” began Kathie Lee, 64.
“It’s a very difficult, difficult day,” said Kotb, 53. “We found out early this morning, pre-dawn — a phone call about our colleague Matt Lauer.”
“And our friend,” added Kathie Lee.
“And our dear, dear friend,” said Kotb.
Kotb admitted that processing the news is “going to take a lot of time.”
“Again, it’s that feeling that we were talking about, that I think everyone at home has felt something [like this],” she continued. “You’ve loved someone so much, and then you hear something and you go, ‘Wait, what? How does that make sense?’ You grapple with that in your head, and you try to make sense out of it. And it does take time. You can’t figure it out overnight.”
“I don’t know,” said Kathie Lee, at a loss for words. “I’m grappling with [whether] I should even share something — but I guess I really should.”
The co-host went on to address her late husband Frank Gifford‘s affair, news of which broke in 1997 when the Globe tabloid published a story about Frank’s two-day liaison at a hotel with a married flight attendant, Suzen Johnson. The Giffords initially denied it, until the Globe published stills and a transcript from video of the encounters. The couple later told PEOPLE in a statement that the experience had “been as painful for us as it would be for any other couple,” insisting they would “get through this together” and asking for privacy during the difficult time.
“I don’t feel that Matt has betrayed us in any way at all, but when I found out that my husband had betrayed me, you question your own judgment,” said Kathie Lee on Wednesday. “You say, ‘Was everything a lie?’ And I think we have to fight against that, very much fight against that. That the man we know and adored was the man we loved and adored and continue to. I texted [Lauer] this morning and I said, ‘I adore you.’ ”
“No person is perfect in this world,” she continued. “Nobody is. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, is what scripture says. And what we need now is forgiveness, and we need mercy for one another. We don’t need taunts and we don’t need ugliness. We have enough of that in the world. I send out my love right now to the person, whoever it is, that came forward. May God heal that person. I send it to Matt, and his children and his wife — may God bless that family and heal. I’m sorry, Hoda, but in my long life, the only thing I’ve ever been sure of is that only God can heal it. And there’s no bad time to reach out for his help.”
“This is a good way to think of it, too,” she added. “There was a man — a wonderful, wonderful man who was an advisor to me and Frank through our lifetime — and I had my eyes just on me for a long time, and I was upset and hurt, which you would normally be, like I’m sure Matt’s family is. And he said, ‘Kathie, if you can’t forgive your husband,’ — and this is important, you guys — ‘forgive your children’s father.’ Same person. Same person, but that’s the one you love. That’s the one you believe in. We are all so broken. We need somebody to put us back together. And it’s possible, it’s so possible. I’m living proof of it. Didn’t mean to go to church, but that’s where we needed to go today.”
At the top of Wednesday’s 7 a.m. hour, Kotb and Guthrie, 45, read a statement released by Andrew Lack, chairman of NBC News.
“On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer. It represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company’s standards. As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment,” said Lack. “While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.
“Our highest priority is to create a workplace environment where everyone feels safe and protected, and to ensure that any actions that run counter to our core values are met with consequences, no matter who the offender.
“We are deeply saddened by this turn of events. But we will face it together as a news organization — and do it in as transparent a manner as we can. To that end, Noah and I will be meeting with as many of you as possible throughout the day today to answer your questions.”
Guthrie went on to say they were informed of the news early Wednesday morning.
“As I’m sure you can imagine, we are devastated and we are still processing all of this,” she said. “And I will tell you right now, we do not know more than what I just shared with you. But we will be covering this story as reporters, as journalists. I’m sure we will be learning more details in the hours and days to come, and we promise we will share that with you.”
“We are heartbroken. I’m heartbroken for Matt — he is my dear, dear friend and my partner, and he has been loved by many, many people here,” she continued. “And I’m heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story, and any other women who have their own stories to tell.”
WATCH: Matt Lauer Fired Overnight After NBC Received a Complaint Alleging ‘Inappropriate Sexual Behavior’
Former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, who was with the network for 12 years before moving to NBC this year, also opened her hour by addressing the news, urging people to think of the victims of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.
“This one does hit close to home,” she began. “I, too, have known Matt for a long time. He has been a friend, and kind and supportive to me in my transition to NBC News.”
“I see the anguish on my colleagues faces,” she continued. “But when this happens, what we don’t see is the pain on the faces of those who found the courage to come forward. It is a terrifying thing to do. We don’t see the career opportunities women lose because of sexual harassment, or the intense stress it causes a woman dealing with it when she comes to work each day. I am thinking of those women this morning, and hoping they are okay. The days to come will not be easy.”
“We are in the middle of a sea change in this country, an empowerment revolution in which women who for years have felt they had no choice but to simply deal with being harassed at work are now starting to picture another reality, to feel that change is within their grasp,” said Kelly, 47. “As painful as this moment is for so many here at NBC, Today, at CBS earlier this month, at Fox News over the last year, in Hollywood this fall, it is a sign of progress, of women finding their voices, their courage and of the erosion of a shameful power imbalance that has been in place for far too long.”