KELLY’S ON THE WARPATH
Watch Out, ABC Kelly Ripa’s relationship with ABC becomes even more strained as she demands control
The search is on in full force. Since Michael Strahan left Live With Kelly and Michael on May 13, barely three weeks after he and ABC blindsided Kelly Ripa with the news that he was taking a new gig with Good Morning America, nearly 20 guest hosts have paraded through the Live studios as of early June. Lots more are scheduled to sit next to Kelly in what show execs are planning as a months-long audition process to find a permanent replacement for Michael. “We have to now find another great person,” Kelly diplomatically said in May. “I like having a partner. I don’t think it works otherwise. I need someone sitting next to me.” But behind the scenes, Kelly is not happy with ABC’S strategy and she’s making that very clear to them. Still angry and hurt over how ABC handled Michael’s exit, she’s exercising her power as the search for a new co-host continues. “Kelly is making Live producers absolutely miserable by demanding the final say on who replaces Michael,” explains a network insider, adding that Kelly, 45, has been shooting down their ideas left and right. “ABC wants to announce Michael’s replacement at the end of the November sweeps period and wants to keep trying out these numerous co-hosts.” But Kelly doesn’t want to wait that long because it’s more work for her to carry the show with rotating guest hosts. Adds the network insider, “Kelly’s just not on board with the show’s plans.” She even rejected the idea of bringing Regis Philbin back. He and Kelly were co-hosts for 10 years until he retired in 2011. “ABC sug- gested having him come back on a temporary basis,” says the network insider. “But Kelly shot it down immediately. She and Regis aren’t close and she felt ABC was just trying to continue to agitate her.” Regis had a close personal friendship with his former co-host Kathie Lee Gifford and they remain friends to this day. But he and Kelly have no offscreen relationship, and last year Regis revealed that he hasn’t spoken to her since 2011.
Kelly also is opposed to giving the job to Rob Lowe, who is extremely interested, adds the network insider. She thinks he’s “too much of a pretty boy and not cut out for it.” Her first choice, of course, is her friend Anderson Cooper, 49, who guest-hosted alongside her on June 1 and 2. “But he’s unable to make the commitment until after the presidential election. Plus, he isn’t certain that he wants to be the co-host of a morning talk show.”
Kelly has made waves at ABC by speaking out about the whole Michael debacle. “She gave a very big interview to a celebrity-friendly magazine about the scandal and didn’t give ABC a heads-up at the time she did it,” says the network insider. “She didn’t need ABC’S permission to do it, but there was definitely some passive-aggressive behavior going on from Kelly.”
Things are about to get worse. “Kelly expects to be given a big pay raise, which just isn’t going to happen,” says the network insider, who adds execs believe “there is just no justification for it.” ABC is tiring of her antics. “They could replace her in no time,” adds the network insider, noting that Kelly’s contract is up in 2017. “They aren’t going to be pressured into going along with her demands.” ◼