Hoda Kotb was reduced to tears on Friday’s Today show while remembering the sudden death of her father – revealing that she and her family were left not knowing where to sit at the dinner table in his absence.
The 59-year-old host was overcome with emotion during an interview with award-winning journalist Michele Norris, 62, as they discussed her podcast Your Mama’s Kitchen alongside Hoda’s co-host Jenna Bush Hager, 41.
Hoda reminisced about her own parents’ kitchen and revealed how she and her loved ones struggled following her dad Abdel Kader’s death from a heart attack at the age of 51.
She said: ‘I grew up in northern Virginia our kitchen, I remember the table very clearly and my dad’s position at the table.
‘He sat at the head of the table and every night at the end he would have an apple and blueberries.
‘And he passed when I was in college. I think… this is weird, I remember not knowing how to sit at the table without him because we all had our place.’
Choking up at this point, mom-of-two Hoda continued: ‘And I remember when we sat down again, it was like, where do we go, because everyone had their place.’
Jenna was visibly moved by her co-star’s anecdote and wiped a tear from her eye before asking for a Kleenex.
Hoda’s late father and her mother Sameha Kotb lived in Egypt before relocating to the US to raise their family.
Earlier this year, she opened about how her grief affected her while she was studying and that her long-time pal Peggy Fox failed a class to be by her side when school became too much for her to handle.
‘My dad had passed, and I was in a class and didn’t care about my class, didn’t care about anything,’ she told Jenna.
‘There was a quiz, and I remember I looked at the teacher, and the teacher said, “You got to take the quiz.” And I wasn’t feeling it, and I said, “I’m leaving”.’
The teacher warned her that she would fail the class if she didn’t take the quiz, but she still grabbed her backpack and walked out.
‘I felt someone [else] pick up their backpack, and I just kept walking. I didn’t say a word,’ she said. ‘I walked all the way to the duck pond, which was a very peaceful spot, and I sat on a picnic table, on top of it, and she sat next to me.’
Hoda, who is still close friends with Penny, explained that the simple gesture was exactly what she needed at the time.
She said: ‘When I was ready, I go, “I can’t believe you just failed that class with me.” She said, “Well, I wanted to be here, sitting with you. That’s it.” Not, “Do you want me? Do you need me?” It’s like, you turn, and they’re sitting there.’
Hoda previously paid tribute to her late father in June 2020, describing him as a ‘larger-than-life figure to her and her siblings, Hala and Abel.
‘He just led by example. He was someone who was such a hard worker,’ she recalled of her father, who worked as a fossil energy specialist. ‘They came here from Egypt, you know, and they really made their life.’
She explained that her dad ended up becoming the president of his own company, but she used to think he was the vice president of the country.
‘I used to have dreams that my dad couldn’t be the real president, but he could be the vice president — because he wasn’t born here,’ she said. ‘I remember waking up believing my dad was vice president.’
‘He just taught us about hard work, getting it done, and we just all believed we could be anything and do anything,’ she added. ‘They taught us that, my mom and dad.’
In 2018, the Today co-anchor opened up exclusively to DailyMail.com about how her father’s passing influenced her decision to adopt her first child at the age of 52, explaining that the short time she had with her own dad made her less afraid of having kids at an older age.
‘I think any older mom who says they haven’t done the math is probably lying. I’ve absolutely thought about it and what it means. What it means for the future,’ she said.
‘But my dad passed away when he was in his early fifties and I was in my early twenties… I was a junior in college. It was sudden, and scary, and terrible.
‘But the seeds he lay for me during those 20 years, remain with me today. The things he taught me are still a part of me now.’
Hoda, who had at the time just become a mother to her eldest daughter Haley Joy, said that her sole aim was to enjoy the time that she has with her children while she can.
‘My goals are just to be with her for as long as I can,’ the on-screen star – who now has two children – added.
‘To love her forever – of course – and to help her become the person that she is meant to be. Which I can already see is going to be someone who is kind, and good, and smart, and funny, and wonderful.
‘I will work with what I have, I will be grateful for the years that I have, and I thank God that I have her in my life at all. I’m so thankful for the time that I get with her.’