Feuding or friendly? Fans have speculated about Kathie Lee Gifford and Kelly Ripa‘s relationship since the latter took over as Regis Philbin‘s Live! cohost in 2001.
The former Today contributor began working with the late Who Wants to Be a Millionaire host in 1985, when they co-anchored The Morning Show for New York City’s ABC station. Three years later, the series went into national broadcast, and it was retitled Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee.
The duo were staples of morning TV for more than 20 years until Gifford left the show in July 2000. There were rumors at the time that her exit happened because of a feud with Philbin, but the Listen to My Heart author later revealed that she actually left the series to care for her ailing father, Aaron Epstein, who died in 2002.
“My daddy was dying, and I was not comfortable making it public,” the Daytime Emmy winner told the New York Post in August 2007. “I knew it was going to be a horrendous family experience. I just had to have that time with him without cameras in my face and without having to explain things. I wanted my daddy to be able to die with the dignity in which he had lived his life.”
After Gifford’s exit, Philbin began holding on-air auditions to find her replacement. Ripa initially tried out in November 2000 and was announced as the show’s permanent cohost in February 2001. The New Jersey native was best known at the time for her role on the long-running soap opera All My Children.
“The biggest misconception is that it all came easily,” Ripa wrote of her early days at Live! in her 2022 memoir, Live Wire: Long-Winded Short Stories. “People think I just showed up one day and was handed a job and I lived happily ever after and now everything’s perfect. But it never is that way.”
The Broad City alum added that she worked incredibly hard to “earn” respect at the talk show. “There were good and bad days. I don’t want to feel like I’m slamming anyone or that I’m being disrespectful. But I also want people to know it was not a cakewalk,” she wrote. “It took years to earn my place there and earn things that are routinely given to the men I worked with.”
Gifford, for her part, joined the Today show in 2008, cohosting the fourth hour with Hoda Kotb. She also occasionally returned to her old stomping grounds at Live!, both before and after Philbin’s July 2020 death at age 88. In October 2020, she appeared on Live! With Kelly and Ryan for the first time since her former cohost’s passing.
The date of her appearance happened to fall on Ripa’s 50th birthday, so she began her interview by sending her best wishes to the Hope & Faith alum. “Happy birthday, darling,” Gifford said. “Enjoy it. Enjoy 50. It goes by so fast.”
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Keep scrolling for everything Gifford and Ripa have said about each other over the years.