The Sad Statistics Behind Kathie Lee and Hoda’s “Happy Hour”

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

KL Hoda PaintAs anyone with a personal or family history with alcoholism can tell you, drinking in the morning is a great big red flag that you may have a problem. That is why it bothers me to no end that Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb drink alcohol at 10 am on the TODAY show. It’s all in good fun: They don’t binge drink or get visibly drunk, and they often take just a sip or two. They’re wildly funny. But in light of recent studies regarding adult women and alcoholism—and the direct link between media portrayals of drinking and actual drinking—do these larger-than-life media personalities have a responsibility not to glorify a warning sign of alcoholism?

For those of you who aren’t daily viewers of the fourth hour of TODAY, let me tell you that huge goblets of wine, daily drinks, and the ensuing antics are a running joke of the show. It’s even been nicknamed “TODAY’s Happy Hour.” Whether the hostesses are hula-hooping with a glass of wine in hand or sipping the fruit of the vine while biking, the idea is clear: Kathie Lee and Hoda are fun, and drinking is fun.   

If this were a show targeted at teens, and Kathie Lee and Hoda were 21 instead of 50 and 61, the only thing flowing would be outrage. We’ve agreed, as a society, that our youth shouldn’t be taught that drinking is cool. But there doesn’t seem to be any consensus regarding the extent to which our society finds it acceptable to glorify alcohol to a population legally allowed to drink it. After all, Kathie Lee and Hoda are grown women. So what if they want to use alcohol to fuel their fun at 10 am?

But here’s the “so what”: An increasing number of older adults are struggling with substance abuse—particularly alcoholism, and particularly women. A 2010 Gallup poll revealed that nearly two-thirds of American women drank regularly. And as writer Ann Dowsett Johnston explains in her book, Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol, women are 40% more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than men, and are increasingly turning to alcohol to cope. Anecdotal information seems to bear this out: More than 700,000 women follow “Moms Who Need Wine” on Facebook, and almost 140,000 are fans of the group called “OMG, I So Need a Glass of Wine or I’m Gonna Sell My Kids.”Johnston also points out that the problem is more common among wealthier, well-educated women—women like Kathie Lee and Hoda, and a big chunk of their viewers.

I’m not at all suggesting that these two ladies have a drinking problem in real life. The reason they drink on air is not because they truly can’t wait until 5 o’clock, but because their doing so translates into ratings. They’re not even the only ones who have discovered—and made the most of—the fact that women are increasingly taking refuge in a wine bottle. This Wall Street Journal article explores the role of drinking in such female favorites as Scandal, Modern Family, and The Good Wife, where the main character’s drinking became a focal point this week. (CBS even sells a Good Wife wine bottle opener.) When you’re talking about a disease that thrives on denial, all these portrayals can add up to what seems like normalcy.

I know what many of you are thinking: Stop being a killjoy. What’s wrong with a little moderate drinking? But, particularly in the case of TODAY, we’re not talking about a glass of wine with dinner or a toast of champagne at a wedding. The drinking is pervasive, and the show goes to great lengths to emphasize it. “It’s a joke. The producers just keep coming up with ways of getting us to drink, it’s become our thing. It’s like a nonstop party from ten to eleven,” Hoda told New Yorkmagazine. They even joke about the idea of giving up the habit:  “Did you quit drinking? Is that the problem?” Kathie Lee asks a laughing, tongue-tied Hoda, to more laughter. They refer to Booze-day Tuesday and Wednesday as Winesday. Kathie Lee has her own wine line. I could go on and on.

Of course, television networks have the right to portray adult drinking any way they want to. But audiences might not be as enamored of Kathie Lee and Hoda’s drinking antics as much as TODAY’s producers might think. A Facebook page called “Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb: Please Stop Drinking on the Today Show” has garnered 736 likes—not a tremendous amount, but not peanuts, either. Comments following a Daily Mail piece on the gals’ predilection for alcohol were less than positive. People were less than impressed after the duo’sappearance on Monday Night Raw, when they were supposed to be raising awareness about breast cancer (for which alcohol is a risk factor), but instead talked mostly about their wine lists. (One comment read, “Did I really watch Kathie Lee Gifford, during an appearance to promote a cancer charity, plug her wine line? Terrible.”) And the comments following this piece on TODAY’s website include one longtime viewer’s decision to stop watching the program until they nix the drinks.

Wouldn’t it be great if Kathie Lee and Hoda saw these comments, looked at the statistics on women and drinking, and decided to say on the show, “You know what? We’re going to cut down the drinking. We’re gonna show that we don’t need to drink to be fun”? Or just quietly phased it out. Coming up with a new joke never hurts anyway, and they might find that their audience appreciates the tacit permission to let loose and be silly without the excuse that alcohol conveniently provides.

They might find that sometimes, doing well and doing good end up being the same thing.

Karen L. Sodomick
Vice President and Director, Marketing and Communications
Phoenix House



Share this page: Print this page:
Back to Index


  • Shirley

    You have raised some valid facts in your article. I have never understood why Kahy Lee and Hoda drink on their show. As a matter of fact, I find these two women very funny, but do not watch their show for that reason. Bravo to you and others who speak up about NBC’s poor judgment in this matter. Let’s hope NBC takes note of issues surrounding promoting alcohol.

  • Casey

    Great post and it’s one of the reasons I stopped watching the TODAY Show. Thanks for putting into words the concerns many of us share about this.

  • Sue Pinkerton

    So totally agree with you! I am constantly amazed at how much alcohol is consumed by actors in movies, television shows and on reality TV shows. Quite frightening at the message it sends to teenagers about what is “normal” behavior for adults.

  • Steph

    THANK YOU for clearly articulating the concerns that surround the seemingly “harmless” drinking by Kathy Lee and Hoda on the TODAY show. I really am worried about the normalizing of drinking by women and the fun associated with it. We all want to enjoy ourselves and when we see people that we admire are regularly engaging in certain behavior and having a great time doing it, we can’t help but feel encouraged to do it ourselves. I know that people watching don’t want to feel like they are being influenced by a couple of silly women when they watch but familiarity breeds liking and the constant viewing of drinking=fun lays out a slippery slope for regular viewers. Now for what I really think: Alcoholism is real and pervasive. The damage it does to the individual and their families isn’t something we can turn off and on like the tv. Media: please handle the topic with care.

    One more thing: on the TODAY website there is an article that questions Hoda’s decision to have substitute water for alcohol in some of the shots she takes for Kathy Lee’s 60th birthday. The article states:
    ‘In her defense, Hoda said the substituted H2O was a one-time-only deal. “Normally we have pure wine on the show, and a cocktail — usually we have two things,” she said, trying to keep her credibility as an A.M. boozehound. “It’s to keep the mood festive and to keep it light and happy and uplifting!”’
    This quote speaks for itself. I guess we need to justify why we aren’t really drinking because it would ruin our image as lighthearted drinkers.

  • Carla Boysen

    Thank you for bringing this to the public view! I have been complaining about this for a long time and even wrote them. I would be outraged when they would talk of others addiction problems while there is a glass of wine in front of them. I recently posted on my fb page about them when they talked of Robin Williams, which I felt they had no right. I would like for them to stop drinking or taking any mind altering substance for 30 days and just see what others go through who can not drink or use. You are constantly being bombarded to use by tv, stores, restaurants, friends, and families.
    I use them (Kathie Lee & Hoda) in the classes I teach (DWI Education) as a example of promoting alcohol and condoning.

  • kathleen

    My 18 year old daughter has referred to these two women drinking at 10:30 a.m. as the new Norm for having “responsible fun” drinking.
    It’s very sad. We have alcoholism in our family, and we do not have any alcohol in our home for this reason. Perhaps we should have gotten rid of the TV instead….

  • Susan

    Um…have any of you EVER been to Europe? Europeans start the day with a glass of wine at most bistros you walk by every day of the week. We have just determined as “Americans” its only acceptable to drink after 5:00.

  • Sandra

    oh get a life it is a fun thing don’t think it will ever make me drink at 10a.m. Also if you watch they probably don’t
    Drink a smidgen….

  • mary leyba

    who thinks drunks are funny any time much less at 10 am nothing funny about that n b c sucks very bad disions

  • Colleen Castille

    Yes, I agree. I think it’s inappropriate for the drinking duo to drink on the show. These women are role models in our society and the societal permission for morning drinking is heavily pervasive. I wish that they would eliminate the drinking. The rest of their shtick is entertaining.

  • On Strike

    The portrayal of alcohol on the show in the morning hours does bother me as well. While it may be permissable in Europe . .hello? we are not in Europe . . I have struggled mid-life with alcoholism (as many strong successful women in my family have) . . Yes I did not want to stop “having fun” . .Why not use this widely watched influential show to “prove” that you can have fun WITHOUT ALCOHOL! I am not going to watch anymore for this reason. . . Any alcoholics know that it is best kept out of sight, out of mind . . .It is sad that such an entertaining show such as this . .needs to throw it in front of our face every single day . . so wrong on so many levels . . good-bye kathie lee and hoda . . your messaging . .that happy hour must include alcohol is wrong . . . “ON STRIKE”

  • Teresa

    I would like to think that you would be concerned about your fans who maybe recovering alcoholics more than keeping your happy hour appearance up. I think it is a poor attitude to say don’t watch it if you don’t like it. You have a responsibility to you fans.

  • LBates

    I too have been disappointed with the Kathi Lee Gifford of today. The alcohol in the a.m. show has been a big deal and front and center and I usually turn it off. I don’t condemn Kathi for drinking alcohol, however, it takes a much too prominent and almost important part of the show. I’d like to ask why, and how many viewers would they lose?

    I watch Kelly and Michael every day…it’s fun, it’s festive, and to enjoy this atmosphere we don’t have to watch the hilarity of two girls giggling over alcohol.

    Someone said they had written to them. I’d like to know their response.

  • Sarah c

    I’ve had this concern for a very long time and refuse to watch two women who sit drinking alcohol so early in the morning on a daily basis. How sad that NBC can’t see the harm being done. These two women obviously don’t have anyone close to them who struggles with addiction. They dont live in the real world. If I showed up to work with a glass of wine in my hand every morning I would be fired! Sad that they’re given any kind of tv time let alone in the morning! However, I’ve come to expect it of tv with all the Viagra and Cialis commercials.

  • Bill Cluffs

    This Kathie Lee Clown has all the glaring characteristics of a wine drunk: selfish, annoyingly un-funny, loud-mouthed, manipulative, greedy, on and on. Exactly what you expect from a woman who was popped a few years back for exploiting slave labor in an overseas sweat shop. Now she is hoarking her wine company to a morning audience. What a classy piece of work.

  • Britt

    Coming from a daughter of a severe alcoholic father, and someone who has never had one sip of alcohol because of it(despite being over legal age), I am *very* sensitive to anything regarding alcohol, getting buzzed or drunk, and the huge notion that society thinks alcohol = fun. There is nothing that upsets me more than society and public figures promoting alcohol binging, and promoting alcohol in a very unresponssible way. That being said, the Today Show with Hoda and Kathi Lee does NOT bother me in the slightest, and I feel that while this article is very well written and well stated, it is over stretching quite a bit. I watch the Today Show with H & KL every day, and never have I felt that they don’t take alcoholism seriously. Firstly, they were not the ones who started the “tradition” of having a drink each day during the show. During one show a guest requested a drink while on the air, and it was left at that. Then other guests during the following days/weeks wanted the same done for them, thus starting the “tradition” of their daily “happy hour”, if you can even call it that. In New York, it is 12pm when their show goes live, so I wouldn’t really consider that “early morning” to begin with. Secondly, while they do each have a drink sitting in front of them at the start of every show, they *maybe* take one or two sips of it the entire show. Not once have I seen them drink unresponsibly, not once have they been drunk or even “buzzed”. The fact is that unfortunately alcohol is a major part of society, and is present nearly everywhere, it’s unavoidable. As much as I would LOVE for alcohol to dissapear completely, it isn’t going to, and is considered a normal part of life. If two women meet up for a lunch date at noon, chances are they will order a drink, most likely drinking more that Hoda and Kathi Lee ever will on air, and that doesn’t make them an alcoholic or an unresponssible drinker. There is a LOT more that goes into someone being an alcoholic than just having a drink at noon, or that even being considered a “warning sign”. Watching H & KL I have seen nothing indicating that they are promoting alcoholism or unresponssible drinking, and if they were even just a little bit, I would never watch them. I can totally understand people being sensitive to these types of things, as I share the same sensitivity, but there are TONS of other shows that should get major flack and criticism for promoting alcoholism and unresponsible behavior that don’t, and I just don’t feel like this show is one of them.

  • Christy

    Hoda is soooo annoying, especially when s song comes on and she mouths the words and dances and snaps her fingers, so annoying. I can tell it drives Kathie Lee crazy too. Hoda you try to act like you’re so young and you’re NOT. You always continue to fix your hair too, that’s annoyimg also. Everything is about you. Kathie Lee is so much more experienced at this than you, you need to be more professional. Please STOP doing what you do when a song comes on. If you knew what you looked like when doing this you would stop.


    apparently no one understands “schtick”, an old show business term. what they do on their show is common only to them; not understanding “influence”. i am sixty eight. in the old days we would go to the movies; however, we always understood it was not real. i’m guessing that kathie lee, and hoda would not be successful if they were drunks. in any case, children are in school when the show is aired.

  • Sandy

    I am not a teetotaler, but I do have an issue with the entire focus of this show is wine. I wonder how many people fall off the wagon by being reminded daily that drinking wine is just so cool. The show is, for the most part, entertaining. What is not appealing to me is watching two women of their age and influence acting and talking like two sorority girls. (I was in a sorority in college, but I am past that time in my life and so are they.) Nix the constant drinking and talking in unison and they could win in the daytime talk show category.

  • Barbara S Funk

    They need to get rid of the wine at 10am & get real. There are so many people suffering with the disease of alcoholism & seeing these 2 knuckleheads with wine at 10 am is just ridiculous. I’m amazed that is has been allowed to go on. The powers that be need to take a stance and replace big wine glasses with a normal morning beverage.

  • Marilyn Whiting

    All shows on TV have a responsibility to not glorify drugs or alcohol. Take Ellen’s show for instance. Any time she mentions either, the audience claps and hoots. Not good.

  • D. Craig Warden

    I am so glad that people feel the way I do about this issue. I am a recovering alcholic. I spend almost every day at various local AA meetings and see first hand the faces of women (and naturally men) young and old battling this terrible disease. I also visit and speak at a local recovery clinic. Those who have seen the documentary “Faces of Meth” should see “The Faces of Booze” I see every day. I have no problem with people who can drink in moderation, unfortunately many can’t due to the disease. It sickens me to see K & H make it seem that drinking every day and in the morning, no less is normal and fun. Shame on them and NBC. I pray that no one close to them loses their life due to the disease or someone drunk driving having a “little morning fun”.

  • Sophie

    I agree with Kathleen who said that instead of not allowing alcohol in her house, she should have thrown out the TV. Before the Today Show’s fourth hour, I thought of Hoda as a respectable journalist. I soon lost my admiration. How and why she has become Kathie Lee’s enabler, her punching bag, I’ll never know. Kathie Lee does not appear sincere in anything she has to say. She may think of herself as moral, ethical, religious, helpful, but she seems to just be going thru the motions, with one eye on her image in a mirror at all times, making sure her “good deeds” don’t go unnoticed. Very little self-awareness; how else would you explain the over-the-top alcohol consumption every morning. Irresponsible. Hoda, get off the show, go back to serious journalism and leave Kathie Lee in the gutter.

  • Megan

    Why are some folks saying their: “over the top alcohol consumption “. I guess many of you have never seen the show. They take maybe 2 sips the entire show. Do I think the show could do without the wine, sure. I don’t think seeing it is going to “ruin” someone’s life. If that’s the case, they better never watch any other shows, movies or leave their house, let alone have friends, because I guarantee some of them drink. It’s not everyone else’s responsibility to censor themselves for the sake of upsetting someone. It would be totally different if they were pounding wine and getting wasted, but that’s not even close to reality. I use to be an alcoholic, the show doesn’t bother me, I’m faced with the fact folks drink. It’s not up to the world to censor themselves for anyone that could possibly be offended. They have 2 sips the entire show, if anything it’s showing folks you don’t have to guzzle your wine,and act like a fool. As a former alcoholic, they’re the last people that offend me.

  • Kelsey

    Those women wake up before 4AM and rarely consume very much on TV. I can understand how people and those close to people struggling with substance abusive can find ways to validate their destructive behaviors in what they see on daytime TV, however, the NBC news and entertainment shows hardly exemplify alcoholism. If someone were to insist popular media could be partially to blame for someone’s personal, and medical problems, there are 100 sources to point the finger at before you blame hoda and kathy lee.

  • Collie

    I agree that this is totally unacceptable-there are many women out there struggling with alcoholism and it often starts quite innocently as a few drinks out now and then with the girls to relieve a bit of stress and have fun. It is a slippery slope for those who start to associate alcohol with relaxation or fun.

  • Ben

    NBC should be ashamed for allowing two women role models to promote early AM consumption of alcoholic beverages; which is typical of the last stages of this dreaded disease. Simply appalling, and begs a boycott of the entire network until the practice is stopped.

  • J

    Women who are depressed or have a drinking problem are not in this situation because of a morning talk show. When did America decide that anything and everything that presents a problem for someone should be treated with kid gloves? Some people have a problem with eating should we stop showing people enjoying food on TV? Yet as a society were ok with pharmaceutical commercials running non-stop thru every TV and plenty of people abuse prescription drugs! How does these two having a single glass of wine equal glorifying alcohol abuse? I’d say having a single glass of wine would be the exact opposite of that. As for what time the show airs, who cares! So by this logic if you have 1 drink at 10 am you have an alcohol problem but having multiple drinks after 5 means your ok. When are people going to wake up and realize all this over focus on being politically correct is not solving our problems. If women are depressed and drinking too much blame a society that is overworking them, overwhelming them, underpaying them, and not empowering them. Not daytime television.

  • Steve

    To Susan: I lived in Europe (Italy) for 6 years and worked for a small town company doing pretty manual labor. This to say I was working and hanging out with the “common man”. There may have been a beer with lunch on occasion, but the only guys that drank before noon were those with drinking problems. Nobody starts their day with an alcoholic drink, except alcoholics. At least not in Western Europe.

  • george k

    Kathie Lee and Hoda should be taken off the Today Show. Their use of alcohol on their show is absolutely repulsive. As a father of four I find this to be highly inappropriate.

  • Cheryl

    Kathie Lee is a Christian. What happened? Maybe they both would benefit from watching “Flight”?

  • Ed

    If they need to flaunt sipping wine at 10 in the morning to get ratings, maybe they should re-evaluate their programming instead. I don’t find anything “entertaining” in making fun of what is a serious health issue for so many people who DO drink in the morning…and perhaps most of the day, too.

  • Linda

    You know i started watching the show a few months ago and thought well the glassses of wine are just for show to catch your eye as i watched they started drinking mire and more i am thinking what ???? You know i have enough negotiate people in my life that are into alcohol i really think this is very poor taste i have so much to say but woht i dont think it would even matter just wanted to put it out there a little hoda over does it she trying to hard she looks very fake and kathylee i thought she was christian not a very good examlpe very disappointed

  • Sean

    OMG, get a life, lady. So you label people who drink before 12 alcoholics? Who made up that law? Totally ridiculous. This is a free country, if other people are so weak minded and easily influenced that watching two women drinking causes them to turn into alcoholics, then that’s their problem. They have deeper issues to deal with.

  • Sharon Shafer

    I thank you for bringing attention to this! I have many friends around my age 61 that 1 glass at dinner has become out of control . Many dink glass after glass to numb the pain they are going through emotionally or physically , day after day. Many are asking in meds from Dr, that says not to drink while taking, like anti depressants and anxiety meds. The public needs to be informed of the dangers. You can become a alcoholic on wine!

  • francine

    Why does the Today show allow kathie & Hoda to drink wine on their show? what about all the teenage girls that adore Kathie & Hoda they might think it is cool and start drinking wine w/o their parents knowledge. I’m surprised at Kathie since she proclaims to be such a Christian.

  • susan mclellan

    I love watching these two and I don’t think ever they will make me drink and from what I see they take a sip when did the world become judge and jury also is Billy the younger version of Regis love watching him with Hoda someone should tell Kelly

  • julie carole

    I am sorry, and Do have alcoholism in family as unfortunately allot of people do but a TV show is NOT going to make someone drink. If we eliminated all the addictions and bad things from the television that there would be no television. If someone watches a movie about someone cheating does that mean they’re going to go out and cheat because sex can also be an addiction. I personally think it is deep within the person if they are going to do something they are going to do it if a family and friends cannot even talk someone out of an addiction how couldn’t television show talk them into it

  • Sam Allarry

    I highly doubt kids are watching these lame shows, and the adults need to stop blaming the media for their drinking problems. Take responsibility for your own self.

  • Marilyn Griest

    will not watch show. not evening funny. bunch of drunks. Kathy was suppose to b a Christian ,poor example

  • graham campbell

    I agree im 26 from austraila, and prefer to watch the American today show. I can’t understand why there promoting drinking in the morning and cant get why there even aloud to. I bet there is alot of young people watching!!!

  • Sana

    I called NBC to complain before I even saw your article, my sister is on hospice with liver disease from alcoholism I have seen people’s and families lives damaged forever alcohol isn’t fun for most people and wine glasses at 10 am to promote Kathys wine business is media negligence

  • Rita Arrigo

    I found these comments looking for an article about the possibility of Hoda and Kathy Lee being alcoholics.
    I was very pleased to see so many people(women)who are so concerned about the message the show promotes that alcohol is FUN!!! It is unconscionable that the network ignores this extremely bad message and tease for those trying so hard to beat their addiction as well as the invitation to adolescents to try or continue to drink alcohol. So many deaths from drunk driving and violence have been attributed to this extremely important issue.
    I do hope the network takes these concerns seriously. If not I may be eliminating my daily viewing.