How Kathie Lee Gifford Comforted Ethel Kennedy After Michael Kennedy's Death

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Chloe Foussianes
·2 min read
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Photo credit: Ron Galella, Ltd. - Getty Images
Photo credit: Ron Galella, Ltd. - Getty Images

From Town & Country

Decades after the fact, Kathie Lee Gifford is sharing the story of Michael Kennedy's death, and how she helped comfort his mother, Ethel Kennedy.

The former Today Show host included the story in her new memoir, It’s Never Too Late. Gifford rode to the hospital on the night of Michael's death alongside her late husband, Frank Gifford, and their stepdaughter, Vicki Gifford, who'd recently separated from Michael—her husband of over 15 years, with whom she shared three children. It was there that she saw Ethel.

“She was grieving so deeply that she couldn't move,” Gifford told People. “She was literally paralyzed with grief.”

In her book, she writes, “I found myself standing directly across from Ethel Kennedy, still in her ski suit but disheveled, with her jacket hanging from her waist. The look on her face was one of utter and total shock.” Gifford compared Ethel's face to the expression she bore after her husband Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968: "I wish I could erase it from my memory, but I can’t."

Then, after praying silently, Gifford turned to Ethel and offered a bible verse: "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." She explained to People, "Ethel is someone who's had religion her whole life. And so [God had] been a huge part of her life, but she'd never heard the scripture before that I shared with her in the book... It changed her life."

Michael was pronounced dead on New Year's Eve in 1997 after a skiing accident in Aspen, Colorado, where he'd been vacationing with other members of the Kennedy family. Although Vicki was no longer in a relationship with Michael, Gifford writes, she still grieved.

“She had loved Michael since she was fifteen years old, and although he had betrayed her and left her emotionally destroyed, she had never wished him harm,” the memoir reads, referencing Michael's alleged affair with the family's teenage babysitter. “She would always love him.”

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