Jenna Bush Hager, a mother and former teacher, couldn’t have had a more difficult time addressing the audience about the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida during the Fourth Hour of “TODAY.”
Hager joined host Kathie Lee Gifford again on the morning of Feb. 15, one day after the mass shooting and was visibly emotional discussing the impact this tragedy had on the victims and families of children at the school. Gifford started the broadcast by applauding “TODAY” anchors Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb for their coverage of the shooting early Thursday during their broadcast from South Korea.
“It’s hard, you guys, for all of us to make sense out of something so evil,” Gifford said to the studio audience. “Our job is to come on the air and usually entertain you so, I don’t think you understand … the dilemma we feel. There’s a part of us that wants to grieve along with everyone else, right Jenna? But there’s a part of us that wants to ease your burdens. We want to make you smile and change the tone a little bit. But, we had to mention it because there are too many people suffering.”
“And, the thing is, we all, all of you that came here today, we get to go home and hold our kids. We get to rebound from this. But, those parents, that lost 17 kids, won’t,” Hager said. “These high school students who witnessed the unimaginable, won’t.”
Tears welled up in Hager’s eyes when she reflected on her own experience as a teacher, “it’s the most important job there is other an being a parent.”
Gifford applauded the heroic teachers who shielded bullets from the students during that time of crisis. The segment got even more emotional when Hager talked about the 18 school shootings that have happened in 2018, so far.
“I taught 9 or 10 years ago and we weren’t asked to do this type of thing as teachers. There were shootings but it wasn’t 18 shootings in the last 45 days,” she said. “Not only are we asking our teachers to educate our next generation of students, but we are asking them to stand in between of a gunman and save their lives. So, thank every teacher that you see today.”
The audience cheered in agreement with Hager’s words.
“The other thing is, I have two little girls and I think about the fact that we live in a world that our job as adults, as politicians, as parents, as community leaders, as people that vote, our job is to protect our children. So, let’s do it. Let’s protect them,” Hager said.
Gifford also chimed, “I think that’s the frustrating thing about it is that nothing ever seems to change. We all get outraged by it for about a minute now and it’s so common and nothing really changes. I don’t know what the answers are but in all of our disagreement, we have to agree that something has to change.”
Both women agreed that they refuse to speak the suspect’s name and won’t show any video from the scene on their broadcast.
Gifford ended the segment by talking about her own thoughts on how much the world has changed while she was visiting her own children in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
“I was thinking about how much the world has changed since I was raising my kids,” she said. “I never, ever, in the morning when I sent my children off to school, never even dreamed that such a dream is possible.”
After the broadcast, Gifford and Hager shared their condolences on Twitter.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by Wednesday’s tragic shooting in Florida,” they wrote alongside a photo of the two co-hosts in an embrace.
Seventeen people were killed and dozens were wounded when a gunman opened fire after allegedly pulling the fire alarm at the school on Wednesday.