Kelly Ripa returns to 'Live!': 'Our long national nightmare is over'

"LIVE with Kelly and Michael": Kelly's Return
"LIVE with Kelly and Michael": Kelly's Return

Kelly Ripa returned to Live! With Kelly and Michael on Tuesday, a week after she learned -; following the taping of last Tuesday's show -; that her co-host Michael Strahan would be leaving for a full-time job on Good Morning America.

Ripa has been absent from the popular daytime show since April 19; Ana Gasteyer, Erin Andrews and Shay Mitchell have filled in as guest co-hosts. Ripa's anger over both Strahan's departure and, more significantly, ABC executives not telling her about his planned move until minutes before the news broke, caused her to boycott her own show. While she had a previously scheduled vacation for Friday and Monday, she missed the Wednesday and Thursday episodes of Live! as well.

Ripa walked out with Strahan, holding his hand as normal. But then she took the stage alone to address why she was away.

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Wearing a sleeveless red pantsuit, Ripa received extended applause and cheering from the Live! audience before joking, "Guys, our long national nightmare is over! I'm fairly certain there are trained professional snipers with tranquilizer darts in case I drift too far off message."

"I first want to honestly, sincerely thank you for welcoming me back to the show," she continued. "The love, the show of support through this bizarre time has been overwhelming."

"I needed a couple of days to gather my thoughts," Ripa said, explaining her absence. "After 26 years with this company, I earned the right. And to be honest, I know half of you [in the audience] called in sick to be here, so we get each other."

"In that time, I gained some perspective," she continued. "I always speak from the heart. I didn't want to come out here and just say something I regret. What transpired, though, over the course of a few days has been extraordinary in the sense that it started a much greater conversation about communication and consideration and most importantly respect in the workplace."

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She went on: "I don't consider this just a workplace. This is my second home. This is a place I have devoted myself to, not just because of you, our loyal viewers, but because of all of the producers and the crew who work on this show. We have an incredible team. We are incredibly devoted to one another. We are family. Apologies have been made. The best thing to come out of all of this, guys, is that our parent company has assured me that Live! is a priority."

She congratulated Strahan: "I am thrilled for Michael. I am thrilled for you. This is a tremendous opportunity. I and we couldn't be prouder of you and everything we accomplished together."

And then she urged people to get back to business and gave the audience some perspective. "Back to the show, this is entertainment, it's supposed to be entertaining. Let's get back to what we do best and start the show," she said. "My dad, who was a bus driver for 30 years, thinks we're all crazy. I think he's right."

After she joined Strahan at the Live! co-host table, Ripa talked about celebrating her 20th wedding anniversary to husband Mark Consuelos, for which she had taken some of her time off. She clarified that she and Consuelos did have a trip planned despite people thinking they made that up.

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Ripa announced Friday night that she would return to Live! on Tuesday. In a staff email that was leaked to the media, she thanked her colleagues for giving her "the time to process" the "new information" of Strahan leaving.

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As of Monday morning, Ripa and Strahan hadn't spoken since she learned of his move to GMA, but they had a cordial text-message exchange Saturday, according to a source.

He did, however, seem glad to have her back. Toward the end of their recap of the news, he said he was "truly so happy you're here and happy 20th wedding anniversary." He also repeatedly told her during Tuesday's edition of the show's travel trivia game, "I'm so glad you're back." When the caller got the question about something that happened during last week's show wrong, Ripa joked, "Don't look at me -; I wasn't here!"

Ripa's high-profile absence is the latest chapter in what's become a tense relationship since Strahan started regularly appearing on GMA in 2014, with Ripa feeling like Disney was prioritizing ABC News' GMA over the syndicated Live!, according to a source close to the show. Now, Strahan is concerned he's been cast as the villain, sources close to the former New York Giants star say, while much of the media has portrayed Ripa's reaction as diva-ish.

For his part, Strahan has repeatedly thanked Ripa and shared his appreciation for what he's learned from her as he discussed his move to GMA on that show and Live! during Ripa's absence.

Strahan is expected to stay on Live! through the summer with the daytime show beginning to audition new co-hosts for Ripa in September.

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