While there’s been a lot of drama surrounding Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s tenure on “The View” recently, following the release of her new memoir, former co-host Meredith Vieira still has a lot of fond feelings for her fellow panelist.
“I loved working with Elisabeth, I think she was great,” Vieira told ET at a goodbye party for Kathie Lee Gifford, ahead of her final day as a host on the Today show, alongside Hoda Kotb. “I felt like she was a daughter to me.”
Vieira admitted that she often “worried” about Hasselbeck, when she was a host, because of the possibility that her conservative-leaning political stances would get her pigeonholed as a voice of the right.
“I felt that they were trying to make her into the conservative voice and put words in her mouth, and I don’t think that’s a good place to be,” Vieira, 65, shared. “When you’re new in television, sometimes you agree to things you might not otherwise. And when you’re trying to find your voice, it’s important that, that voice be authentic.”
“So, I feel she took a lot of heat for things she might not necessarily have believed in wholeheartedly,” she added.
In her new book, Point of View: A Fresh Look at Work, Faith, and Freedom, Hasselbeck reveals how she was fired from the show after 10 years, without warning, by one of the show’s producers and a network executive, and that it left her feeling “shock [and] betrayal.”
“I didn’t know she’d been fired,” said Vieira, who worked alongside Hasselbeck during seasons 6-9, but left the show long before Hasselbeck’s departure at the end of season 16 in 2013.
Hasselbeck’s abrupt firing is one of many different recent stories of behind-the-scenes drama and turmoil from the show’s time on air, but Vieira said that, when it comes to in-fighting or cast bickering on shows, she’ll often “miss a lot of stuff” that goes down.
“Every job I’ve had, I go in and I get out,” she recalled. “When I did the ‘Today’ show, I never went to my office [in 30 Rockefeller Plaza]. I never went near it because people wore suits and I just thought, ‘No good can come of this.'”
“I stayed in my dressing room. I got in at 5 a.m., did the show, got changed and took off, because I wanted to be home or I had [‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’], for a certain number of weeks out of the year. So I missed a lot of the intrigue, certainly, with ‘The View’, for the same reason. I would do the show and then go home.”
Vieira also reflected on her time on the “Today” show and her friendship with Gifford, who is leaving the program after 11 years.
“She’s funny, she’s smart, she’s got a little bit of sarcasm to her, she tells the truth, she has the biggest heart,” Vieira marvelled. “She makes you feel like you’re home.”
Vieira said she felt a particular appreciation for Gifford’s “kookiness” on and off screen, and recalled how they used to play games during the show, and the departing host used to get “scary competitive.”
“But she showed who she was when her husband, Frank [Gifford] died, and she came and spoke on the air about that,” she recalled of the difficult time in Gifford’s life in August 2015. “She was so moving and it was real, how she handled that loss and that love that was gone.”
“I’m watching that and I thought, ‘Boy, for all other people who are watching, who are going through something in their life at that moment, how calming she must have been for them and reassuring [them] that it will be okay,'” Vieira added.
Gifford’s last episode of the “Today” show airs April 5, after which Jenna Bush Hagar is set to step into the co-host seat alongside Kotb.
ET recently spoke with Kotb about the emotional transition period, and she reflected on some of her favourite memories of being Gifford’s friend and co-host, and teased what fans can expect from the fourth hour of “Today” in the future. Check out the video below to hear more.