She hadn’t been seen on-air since Presidents Day on February 20, 2023, and concerned fans wondered: Why was Hoda Kotb not on the Today Show last week and where was she? Her absence had gone unexplained for over a week but we now know why.
Kotb joined NBC in 1998, first as a correspondent for Dateline and NBC news. In 2007, she joined Today and was joined by co-host Kathie Lee Gifford in April 2008. Gifford left the show in 2019 and was succeeded by Jenna Bush Hager. 2018 was when Today became the show it is now—Kotb was named co-anchor with Savannah Guthrie after anchor Matt Lauer was terminated by NBC News after he was accused of sexual misconduct. Kotb and Guthrie make up the first female anchors leading the popular current affairs show. In her 25 years on air, Kotb has received many awards for her contributions to journalism and broadcast. Among her many accolades, Kotb was awarded a Peabody in 2006 for Dateline’s “The Education of Ms. Groves” and was named Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2018.
But since her last appearance on Today on Presidents Day 2023—which was prerecorded because it fell on a public holiday—and a series of cryptic messages on social media, fans had been worried about Kotb’s absence. Her last live broadcast was on February 17. She finally explained where she’d been on Monday, March 6, 2023.
Why is Hoda Kotb not on the Today Show and where is she? Kotb and her co-host Savannah Guthrie were both absent on the broadcast on March 20, 2023. Sheinelle Jones and Craig Melvin filled in for them, and Willie Geist took Kotb’s place on 4th Hour with Hoda and Jenna. Jones and Melvin shared that Guthrie is currently “on assignment,” but did not offer additional details, while Kotb was “off” for the day, without elaborating further.
It comes just two weeks after Kotb had been absent from the show for two weeks, with her last live broadcast on February 17. On Monday, March 6, Kotb returned to Today and explained the reason. Her three-year-old daughter faced a medical emergency. “My youngest, Hope, was in the ICU for and then in the hospital for a little over a week,” Kotb told her co-host Savannah Guthrie. “I’m so grateful she’s home, she is back home. I was waiting for that day to come, and we are watching her closely.” She continued: “You know what I realized too, Savannah? It’s like, when your child is ill, the amount of gratitude you can have for people who helped you out. So I’m grateful for the doctors at Weill Cornell who were amazing and the nurses. And I’m grateful for my family and I’m grateful to friends like you who were there every single day. So I want to say thank you for that. I love you.”
The only previous mention of her absence was with: “Hoda’s off today,” Guthrie mentioned in passing during February 27’s broadcast. World News Tonight anchor Tom Llamas replaced Kotb during her first day out and Craig Melvin stepped in for her second day of absence. As far as Today With Hoda and Jenna, cohost Jenna Bush Hager was joined by Sheinelle Jones and Willie Geist.
In another layer, Kotb’s co-host Savannah Guthrie left early on Tuesday, February 28, 2023, after testing positive for Covid. Sheinelle Jones, who’d taken over temporary hosting duties, gave an update on Guthrie’s health status at around 8 am. “By the way, it has been an interesting morning for us,” Jones began. “As we said, Savannah left early, she wasn’t feeling great, so she took a Covid test. It came back positive.” Jones added, “So, as soon as we found out, she rushed home to rest up. So Savannah, we love you, wishing you a speedy recovery.”
Throughout her absence, there had been multiple posts to Kotb’s Instagram feed with inspirational messages. The most recent one, published on February 27, simply reads: “Choose hope”. In the comments section, fans expressed their concern for their beloved host. “Find it difficult to watch with you not being there,” wrote one. “Ok. Seriously…what is going on with you? I know you have a right to privacy, but your truest fans have noticed your absence and these posts…worried about you,” another wrote.
In an interview with MediaBistro, Kotb explained how she endured 27 rejections before landing her first on-air gig for a CBS affiliate in Greenville, Miss. in 1988. “I started off just wanting to do it because I liked the live element. I always thought newspapers were yesterday, and I like the current. I wasn’t one of those people who thought, ‘I’m going to be at the network by the time I’m 30.’ I just lived where I lived, took the next step, and moved on,” she said. “I’m not important enough to have my own motto. [Laughs] ‘You can’t scare me’ has sort of become my mantra. I think that’s it.”
On a personal note, Kotb has been married once and engaged twice. In 2005, she wed former University of New Orleans tennis coach, Burzis Kanga but their marriage ended in divorce in 2008. In 2013, Kotb began a relationship with New York financier Joel Shiffman and in November 2019, Kotb announced on an episode of Today that the couple was engaged. They had been together for six years at this point and had adopted two children together. “I have to tell you something that a friend of mine, a friend of ours, asked me to let you guys in on a secret,’” Kotb said. “I’ll give you her initials. Her initials are Hoda Kotb, and she’s engaged.”
Three years later, however, the pair called off their engagement but they would focus on co-parenting as friends after eight years together. “Joel and I have had a lot of prayerful and meaningful conversations over the holidays and we decided that we’re better as friends and parents than we are as an engaged couple, so we decided we are going to start this new year … on our new path as loving parents to our adorable, delightful children, and as friends,” said Kotb.
At 43, in 2007, Kotb was diagnosed with breast cancer despite no family history. She had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery and has since become a passionate advocate for breast cancer survivors and research. “My best years of my life were all post-cancer,” she said on Today in October 2022. “All the best years happened after that. That was not the end by any stretch. That was the beginning.”
For more about Hoda Kotb, you have to read her memoir Hoda: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer, and Kathie Lee. As the synopsis goes: “She’s just like the rest of us: overstuffed purse, always losing keys, high-maintenance hair, snack guilt after an evening binge. But she’s something different, too. Hoda Kotb grew up in two cultures—one where summers meant playing at the foot of the ancient pyramids and another where she had to meet her junior prom date at the local 7-Eleven to spare them both the wrath of her conservative Egyptian parents. She’s traveled the globe for network television, smuggling videotapes in her shoes and stepping along roads riddled with land mines. She’s weathered the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and a personal Category 5 as well: divorce and breast cancer in the same year. And if that’s not scary enough, she then began cohosting the fourth hour of Today with Kathie Lee Gifford.”
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