Hoda Kotb has a new wine-drinking partner! Jenna Bush Hager will join Kotb as the permanent co-host of the “Today” show’s fourth hour later this year, NBC announced Tuesday.
The move comes after Kathie Lee Gifford revealed in December that she would be leaving the show in April. Gifford had served as co-host for 11 years before announcing her departure.
“You have been such a role model and so generous with your time,” Hager said Tuesday to Gifford. “You are beloved here in so many ways and if I can use some of your grace and have a half of what you’ve done, my life will be a very happy one.”
Hager has been a correspondent on the show since 2009, and has regularly filled in for Kotb and Gifford during the 10 a.m. EST/PST hour.
“It feels humbling and I can’t believe it,” Hager said on the show Tuesday.
The daughter of former president George W. Bush shared what her father said to her about her new gig, getting emotional as she told Kotb and Gifford.
“My dad just wrote me three words, which made me weep. He said, ‘Very proud dad,’ ” Hager said. “Which I’m like, what is there to be proud about? I’m just drinking wine in the morning!”
NBC News president Noah Oppenheim sent out an email to staffers about Hager’s move.
“Jenna joined TODAY nearly ten years ago and she quickly became a fixture in our family,” he wrote in the email obtained by USA TODAY. “Her compassion and curiosity come through in all of her stories, along with her Texas-sized sense of humor. Jenna instantly connects with everyone she meets, whether they are guests on our show or fans on the Plaza.”
Oppenheim noted that this would be “the first of many” changes happening at “Today.”
“While it’s bittersweet to say goodbye to Kathie Lee, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to make some changes at 10 a.m. This is just the first of many! The show is evolving, and we will have additional announcements to share with you in the coming months,” he wrote. “In the meantime, please join me in wishing Jenna a big congratulations!”