(NEW YORK) — “Our long national nightmare is over,” Kelly Ripa joked as she returned to Live with Kelly & Michael Tuesday morning. It was her first appearance since it was announced last week that co-host Michael Strahan was leaving the show to work at Good Morning America full time.
After emerging to wild, sustained applause and then making the joke, Ripa continued, “I’m fairly certain that there are trained professional snipers with tranquilizer guns [in the studio], in case I drift too far ‘off message.'” Turning serious, she added, “Honestly and sincerely, thank you for welcoming me back to the show. I needed a couple of days to gather my thoughts. After 26 years with this company, I have the right.”
Ripa’s absence came sparked numerous rumors, including that ABC, which airs both Live with Kelly & Michael and GMA, hadn’t told her in advance about Strahan’s departure.
“What transpired has been extraordinary, in the sense that it started a much greater conversation abut communication and consideration and respect in the workplace,” Ripa declared. “Apologies have been made, and the best thing to come out of this is that our parent company has assured me that Live is a priority.”
As for her co-host, Ripa insisted, “I am thrilled for Michael. I am thrilled for you. This is a tremendous opportunity and I couldn’t be prouder of you and everything we accomplished together. Now, this is entertainment. It’s supposed to be entertaining so let’s get back to what we do best.”
Ripa had one more thing to say: “My dad, who was a bus driver for 30 years, thinks we’re all crazy, and I think he’s right!”
For his part, Strahan told Ripa, “I am so happy you’re back. You love the show…I love you and I’m so happy you’re here, and you brought me here, and this show has been transforming for me and the show lives on because you are the queen!” As the audience applauded, Ripa said that Oprah was the queen, to which Strahan replied, “Oprah’s retired!”
Ripa also dismissed rumors that the explanation for part of her absence — a pre-planned vacation — was a lie. Turns out she and her husband, actor Mark Consuelos, really did go on a trip for their 20th wedding anniversary. Kelly even displayed a photo of them posing together on the vacation.
“That’s my wedding dress,” she said. “It still fits!”
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