Kathie Lee Gifford has shared that she finally felt ‘free’ to write about her unhappy first marriage and the death of her husband Frank Gifford’s son-in-law Michael Kennedy in detail because a lot of the people in her life have passed away.
The former Today host called in to the show on Tuesday to promote her new book, It’s Never Too Late: Make the Next Act of Your Life the Best Act of Your Life, admitting that she doesn’t really know why she chose to include a passage about her relationship with her first husband, Christian music composer Paul Johnson.
‘I didn’t want to write a how-to book. It would be two lines: Trust God. It would be a very short book,’ Kathie, 67, said. ‘I wanted to have it entertaining. A lot of stories I retell, but I add more details to it. A lot of people have passed since things happened in my life, so I feel more freed up to share certain things.’
She’s back! Kathie Lee Gifford, 67, called in to the Today show on Tuesday to promote her new book, It’s Never Too Late: Make the Next Act of Your Life the Best Act of Your Life
Opening up: Kathie (right) revealed her stepdaughter Victoria Gifford (center left) gave her permission to write about the tragic death of her husband Michael Kenned (far left)
Kathie was a 22-year-old virgin when she fell for her first husband Paul, who was her Bible study group leader and seven years her senior. They married in 1976, but their lack of sexual chemistry led her to spend her wedding night in tears. They were married for six unfulfilling years before they finally divorced.
‘He was never really my husband; he was somebody I was married to,’ she explained in a new interview with Parade. ‘I make a big distinction. I have absolutely no ill will or bad feelings toward him. I pray for him all the time. But it was a very, very, very unhappy marriage for both of us.’
In 1986, a decade after she first said ‘I do,’ she married her second husband Frank, who was the great love of her life. However, their marriage had its own struggles.
Frank, who passed away at age 84 in 2015, was caught cheating on Kathie in 1997 with a married flight attendant, severely straining their marriage. It’s unclear if she opens up about the infidelity in her new book.
Heartbreaking loss: Kathie recalled seeing Michael’s mother Ethel Kennedy at the bedside after the skiing accident. They are pictured leaving the funeral as a family
While on the Today show, Kathie explained that one of the stories she felt compelled to write about was the tragic death of Robert and Ethel Kennedy’s son Michael, who was married to Frank’s daughter Victoria Gifford.
Michael, 39, died when he skied into a tree on New Year’s Eve during a family vacation in Aspen, Colorado, in 1997, just months after news broke that he had an affair with the family’s teenage babysitter.
‘There’s a story about Ethel Kenned at the bedside of her son Michael who had passed in that skiing accident,’ she said. ‘I felt free now to write that story. It was a powerful story.
‘My daughter-in-law, Frank’s daughter Vicki, who had been married to Michael gave me permission,’ Kathie added: ‘She said, “Kathie, if it will help people, write about it.’ Things that I share about Frank… Everybody would say, “If it helps somebody, if it gives you strength…”‘
Looking back: Kathie explained a lot of the stories in the book she retold with more details, including a passage about her unhappy marriage to her first husband Paul Johnson (far left)
Loss: Kathie met her second husband Frank Gifford on the set of Good Morning America in the ’80s (left). Her great love died at age 84 in 2015. They’re pictured in 2010 (right)
Family: Kathie and Frank had two children together – Cody and Cassidy (pictured together in New York City in 2012)
The mother of two noted that her children Cody, 30, and Cassidy, 27, don’t want her talking about them, but she ‘can certainly talk about everybody else.’
Later on in the show, Kathie chatted with her former fourth-hour co-host Hoda Kotb and her replacement Jenna Bush Hager about why she felt comfortable writing the book.
Inspiring: Kathie’s book is all about how it’s never too late to go after your dreams
‘In different stages of your life, different seasons, you feel more at ease to share certain things. Or you remember certain things and you kind of go, “Ahh, I’ve never told that story,”‘ she explained, noting that the famous people who appear in the book are truly her friends.
‘I know it sounds like a who’s who of Hollywood and everything else when you look at these books, but these are people that are my friends,’ she said.
‘They happen to be famous, but I have a real relationship with them. I look back on it and I’ve always felt like I’m Waldo. What was I doing there?’
Kathie stressed that she ‘doesn’t want to hurt anybody’ with the book, but the stories she shares are true and something that others can learn from.
‘I feel freed up to tell the truth in the spirit of love,’ she said.
The multihyphenate’s book is all about how it’s never too late to go after your dreams, and she pointed out that Hoda, 56, is a perfect example of that.
After years of thinking motherhood wasn’t in the cards for her, Hoda adopted her first daughter Haley Joy in 2017.
Friends: Kathie referred to her former co-host Hoda Kotb becoming a mom later in life, saying she is the perfect example of making your dreams come true
Happy: ‘Hoda, you longed to be a mother. Now look at you,’ Kathie gushed. ‘I remember when you thought, “I could never do that. I could never be a mother at this point”‘
Home for the holidays: Kathie celebrate Thanksgiving in Nashville, Tennessee, with her children and their spouses
She and her fiancé welcomed their second daughter Hope Catherine two years later, and they recently completed the paperwork to try and adopt their third child.
‘Hoda, you longed to be a mother. Now look at you,’ Kathie gushed. ‘She sent me a videotape of the most beautiful little girls on the planet this morning. I started to cry.
‘I remember when you thought, “I could never do that. I could never be a mother at this point.” And look how God has blessed.’
The author also discussed how people want their dreams to come true but aren’t willing to do the work, and she couldn’t resist cracking a joke about how Jenna, 39, took over her hosting job on the Today show.
‘There are so many people that feel entitled to those two seats that you are sitting in Today, but they’re not willing to do the work that took to get it,’ she said, adding: ‘Now, Jenna, I know you slept with a lot of people, but you know that your sins are forgiven as are mine.’
Jenna and Hoda both burst into laughter before saying goodbye to their friend.