Today is keeping it in the family. Once Kathie Lee Gifford departs the NBC morning show’s fourth hour in April, Jenna Bush Hager will permanently fill her spot, cohosting the talk show alongside Hoda Kotb.
A source exclusively tells Us Weekly the 37-year-old “was being considered for other projects at NBC,” including Today’s third hour following the cancellation of Megyn Kelly Today in October 2018. But when Gifford, 65, announced her impending exit in December, producers considered Hager, daughter of former President George W. Bush, to be “an organic replacement,” as she had been a regular presence on Today for nearly a decade.
“Jenna is liked by everyone at Today,” the source adds. “She’s a hard worker and treats the staff with care and respect. Jenna is open to direction and hungry to learn. She never makes a big deal about being the President’s daughter.”
Gifford and Kotb, 54, announced the news on air on Monday, February 25, and brought Hager in to celebrate. “Oh, my gosh! My heart is pounding,” an emotional Hager said, taking a seat between the two hosts. “I want to cry. I want to weep.”
“Jenna Bush Hager has been filling in on this show for years,” Gifford told viewers. “Here on NBC and around the country, Jenna is loved.”
Hager was eager to reciprocate the praise. “You have been such a role model and so generous with your time,” she told the Daytime Emmy winner. “You are beloved in so many ways, and if I can use some of your grace and have half of what you’ve done, my life will be a very happy one.”
She also revealed she had gotten a congratulatory message from her father. “My dad wrote me three words which made me weep,” she said. “He just wrote, ‘Very proud dad.’”