Hoda Kotb Recalls Her Conversation With Kathie Lee Gifford After Regis Philbin's Death (Exclusive)

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regis philbin, kathie lee gifford and hoda kotb in 2015
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Hoda Kotb reached out to her close friend and former Today show co-host, Kathie Lee Gifford, to be there for her after the recent death of Gifford's beloved pal of 35 years, Regis Philbin. ET spoke to Kotb as well as her Today colleague, Jenna Bush Hager, on Tuesday via FaceTime, and Kotb talked about her conversation with Gifford about Philbin's death.

Philbin died on July 24 from a myocardial infarction due to coronary artery disease. Gifford and Philbin had been close friends since they first started working together in 1985, eventually spearheading their iconic show, Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee. Gifford left Live! in July 2000 and ended up joining Today in 2008 as co-host of the NBC morning show's fourth hour alongside Kotb, until she decided to leave in December 2018.

Kotb talked to ET about her phone call with Gifford.

"I called Kathie after his passing and she talked about how he had been frail when he had last seen her but all she could think about were these years and years of the richness that they had together and he said the best years of his professional life were the ones spent with Kath, and I just thought to myself, 'Wow,'" she tells ET's Rachel Smith. "Anybody who met Reg -- you met him a million times, loved him."

Kotb later recalled Philbin's multiple appearances on the Today show.

"I think, you know, what strikes me when I think of him coming in this studio is how he belonged with us," she says. "And when I say us, I don't just mean Kathie Lee, Jenna and me -- our people who are on-air -- he belonged with the crew. Like, he delighted in entertaining people. Didn't matter if cameras were on or off and he always kind of led with kindness and he always just seemed happy to be there."

"Like, he would come on and have a fun little, you know, cameo role," she continues. "He'd be like, 'What's my motivation, what should I do, where do I stand?' Like, he had us all laughing and I remember just thinking he had such grace."

Bush Hager adds, "He was a really kind soul."

During Gifford's appearance on the Today show late last month, she recalled her last meeting with Philbin and his wife, Joy, which happened just two weeks before his death.

"I saw Reg get out of the car with Joy and I sensed much more fragility than I had seen in him since the last time in January out in Los Angeles," she said. "We just had the best time. After they left I thought to myself, 'Lord is that the last time I am going to see my friend?' Because he was failing. I could tell."

"I was just so grateful the Lord gave me that final time," she added. "It was so precious. When I talked to Joy the day I found out, right after he passed, she said, 'Kathie he hadn’t laughed in a long, long time.' She said, 'I was so worried about him.'"

Back in October 2015, ET spoke with Philbin, Gifford and Kotb all together, when Philbin and Kotb showed their support for Gifford as she was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame. Philbin and Kotb playfully fought over their close friend.

"Fifteen years together, she was incredible," Regis told ET of Gifford, before teasing that she might have downgraded by pairing up with Kotb.

"Now eight years with this one, and so-so, you know?" he cracked.

Hoda playfully shot back, pointing out that Gifford didn't win an Emmy until she joined her on the Today show.

Gifford replied, "I did get my Emmys with Hoda, but when I finally left the show with Reg, that's when he got his. I was the problem with that."

Watch the heartwarming moment below:

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