Legendary daytime television host Kathie Lee Gifford — known for her outspoken Christian faith — has hardly shied away from confrontation, even when it could come back to bite her.
The erstwhile “Today” anchor recently opened up on “The Prodigal Stories Podcast” about her brief but powerful encounter with shock jock Howard Stern, who was purportedly embroiled in a one-sided, decades-long feud with the popular TV personality, presumably for no other reason than her Christian beliefs.
It all came to a head one day when the two were in the same building.
Listen to our conversation with Gifford:
Despite staffers from both her and Stern’s teams maneuvering to keep the two celebrities from facing one another — even keeping them on separate floors of NBC Studios at Rockefeller Center — the 69-year-old Gifford threw caution to the wind and made her way to Stern and his cadre.
It wasn’t of her own volition, though, that she approached Stern. In fact, Gifford recalled feeling compelled by the Holy Spirit to introduce herself to the brash radio host, whom she had never met.
“I went, ‘Oh, there’s Howard,'” she reminisced of the 2012 encounter. “I didn’t think anything of it. And the Lord spoke very, very clearly to me. He said, ‘Kathie, I want you to go downstairs and say hello to him.’ I’d never met him, I’d never watched his show. I’d only heard and read about all the evil over the years. And I said, ‘OK, Lord. I will.'”
Still a twinge of surprise in her voice a decade later, Gifford said NBC employees — including her own hair and makeup artists — “had gone to unbelievable trouble” to keep her from running into Stern.
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The veteran anchor had to reassure her staff it was OK and that she didn’t need to be shielded from him.
“I went downstairs in little flats [shoes] — he’s 6’6″ [and] I’m 5’6″ — and I find him,” Gifford said, jokingly equating her situation to the biblical story of Zacchaeus, a short tax collector whose story of trying to find Jesus is recorded in the book of Luke. ” I can barely get through the crowd. And I’m going, ‘Howard? Howard?’ And finally he looks at me. I said, ‘Hi, I’m Kathie Lee. I think it’s about time that we said hello. I just want to wish you all the best on the new show, and that’s it. Just take care. Have a good day.'”
At that, Gifford turned around and went back upstairs to her green room.
“I didn’t think anything of it,” she said.
Stern certainly thought something of it, though.
After she had flown to be home with her family for her son’s graduation, Gifford received a voicemail from Stern, who had called her while she was on her flight. Gobsmacked by her kindness, the provocative entertainer asked for her forgiveness.
He called her a second time while she was at dinner. This time, Gifford picked up the phone and they spoke for about 20 minutes.
When Stern asked for her forgiveness, Gifford recalled telling him, “Howard, I’m so happy for you. Any time you start asking people to forgive you is the beginning of happiness in your life. You’re not a happy man; you never have been and so much of the hurtful things you say comes from — I know your background; you’ve been so hurt. I always understood that. Of course I forgive you.”
“But you’ve gotta know I forgave you 30 years ago, when you first started talking about me the way you did,” she continued. “I forgave you 30 years ago, Howard. I’ve been praying for you ever since.”
The impetus for her forgiveness, the TV host said, is because Jesus has forgiven her sins.
Gifford, slated to release her new film, “The Way,” as a one-night Fathom Event on Sept. 1, said she and Stern have seen each other a handful of times since and have had friendly conversations.
Her experience with Stern is reminiscent of the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 12:9-21, where he wrote, “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. … Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. … If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads” (NLT).
You can listen to our full, wide-ranging conversation with Gifford on “The Prodigal Stories Podcast.”
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