Did Kelly Ripa just reveal who she wants her next co-host to be?
ET has learned that Michael Strahan will step down from Live! With Kelly and Michael earlier than expected -- multiple sources confirm his last day will be May 13 -- and, on Tuesday morning, Ripa clutched a copy of a very telling book as she left her apartment to make her emotional return to the talk show.
The 45-year-old co-host donned a chic, floral Erdem sheath dress and carried a copy of Anderson Cooper's new book, written with mom Gloria Vanderbilt, The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss.
Cooper, who is a close friend of Ripa's, is indeed one of the frontrunners for the gig, a source previously told ET. The news anchor is apparently interested in the job, though he may need CNN's permission to do the show, another source revealed.
This isn't the first book that Ripa has used to send a message -- intentionally or not. On Thursday, amid her drama-filled absence from the show, she was spotted with a copy of David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell.
Ripa spent the rest of the week celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary in Turks and Caicos with her husband, Mark Consuelos. On Friday, she sent a late-night email to Live! staff thanking them for "giving me the time to process this new information."
Strahan's exit was announced last Tuesday, leaving Ripa feeling "blindsided" and "betrayed," sources said. Ripa reportedly eventually received an apology from ABC execs regarding the mishandling of the announcement, with top brass expressing "regret for the way Kelly was told the news."
Ripa made her return to Live! on Tuesday, where she tearfully told viewers that she needed a couple of days to "gather my thoughts" after a "bizarre" week.
"I always speak from the heart, and I didn't want to come out here and just say something I might regret," she revealed. "So, what transpired over the course of these days has been extraordinary. It started a much bigger conversation about communication and consideration and, most importantly, respect in the workplace."
Watch more of her emotional return in the video below.