When it was announced that Kathie Lee Gifford would be leaving the fourth hour of Today, the first questions was who would be replacing her. Gifford and co-host Hoda Kotb have had such a dynamic relationship for years, and the thought of someone else sitting next to Kotb was hard to imagine. But Today has officially announced their replacement for Gifford, and it seems like a pretty good fit!
Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of former president George W. Bush, will be taking over the vacant chair, and she's really excited about it.
“I’m so excited, I can’t believe it,” Bush Hager told People. “It feels organic and it feels right. It just feels like the right time for me.”
Bush Hager isn't a stranger to Today, having done segments for them and filled in when someone was unavailable to host. Becoming a permanent fixture on the long-running show will be a whole new world.
“I’ve been the fill-in which is a fun position to be because there’s no pressure but you could just have a blast,” Bush Hager admitted. “So, to take it to the next level is awe-inducing.”
The timing will work out perfectly for the mom of two, who has daughters Mila, 5, and Poppy, 3, with Henry Hager.
“My little kids want me around more,” said Bush Hager. “I’m a traveling machine, so to be home and to get to be kind of grounded in one position feels like such an honor. To be around a little bit more feels like the right time for my family too.”
As for the former president, he's of course happy for his daughter. In fact, Bush Hager said it only took one text for him to make her cry!
“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!'”
Gifford is happy about her replacement, and gave Bush Hager some kind words while also complimenting her former co-host.
“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 of Kotb. “It’s going to be fun. You guys are going to have a ball.”
Kotb is also excited about having Bush Hager as her morning BFF. She gushed about how the author and journalist is just a real person, not fake at all.
“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!"
"She has this thing that’s special," Kotb continued. "I know that people try to have it but I think you’re born with it. And Jenna has it and it’s the thing that makes her laugh at herself when she spills coffee on herself. It’s the way that she makes other moms feel good enough because she explains how she’s had the worst day ever and puts it out there.”
I'm excited to see how Bush Hager works with Kotb. Gifford and Kotb found such a rhythm that took time to develop, but I'm sure over the next few weeks, Bush Hager will find her groove as well.