Kathie Lee Gifford is speaking highly of her friendship with Regis Philbin, weeks after Kelly Ripa said she and her co-star’s friendship “didn’t really exist.”
Gifford worked with Philbin on “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee” from the late ’80s to the turn of the millennium. The 69-year-old media personality left the show with Philbin to work on her singing and acting career; Ripa took over Gifford’s seat in 2001, turning the show into “Live! With Regis and Kelly.”
Regis retired from the show after working with Ripa for a decade, but in 2017 he sparked feud rumors after saying Ripa was “very offended” when he left and that the two didn’t keep in touch.
Ripa recently set the record straight about her relationship with Philbin while promoting her newly released memoir “Live Wire.” In a September interview the 52-year-old show host said feud rumors accusing her of abandoning Philbin were not true.
‘Live Wire’:Kelly Ripa says friendship with Regis Philbin ‘didn’t really exist’
“It was somehow this false narrative that I had abandoned someone that I was very close to – that we were best friends and I had abandoned him,” Ripa told USA TODAY in September. “And none of that was true. We had a very professional, working relationship.”
Gifford said her relationship with Philbin was “something completely different from that.”
“I was very sorry to see the headlines” from Ripa’s recent interviews, Gifford told New York City’s Fox 5 Monday. “I’m not going to read the book, I haven’t read it.”
She added that for 15 years Philbin was “the best partner a person could ever have professionally, but he was my friend.”
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Gifford said she saw Philbin two weeks before he died in 2020 and that his wife, Joy Philbin, said Gifford’s visit was the last time she’d seen him laugh.
“We were absolutely perfect together for television. We never had an argument. Not an unkind word in 15 years. That was my reality,” she said. “In all the years I’ve known him I’ve never seen him unkind to anyone.”
In her September interview, Ripa said telling her side of her relationship with Philbin gave her “a glimmer of hope” in getting rid of the rumor as she was “very careful” writing about it in “Live Wire.”
“I did not understand this need to vilify the woman always, and when it’s a two-person discussion, why isn’t it a two-person discussion?” she asked.
“I enjoyed listening to him tell his stories more than anyone. I loved that part of the show because it was not work at all. But to solely put the responsibility of maintaining a friendship that didn’t really exist (on me) … It’s just a very strange narrative that I found myself in that I couldn’t seem to get out of,” Ripa said.
Contributing: Patrick Ryan