Kathie Lee Gifford Shared How Larry King Reached Out to Her ‘During the Darkest Period’ of This Slanderous Crisis
Former Today Show co-host Kathie Lee Gifford has rubbed elbows with some of television and film’s biggest stars, including some legendary journalists. Gifford recently released a memoir, and described an interview with the late Larry King where she was able to set the record straight on a PR nightmare.
Accusations made against Kathie Lee Gifford in 1996
In her 2020 book It’s Never Too Late: Make the Next Act of Your Life the Best Act of Your Life, Gifford recounted a troubling incident in 1996 when she was accused of an atrocity connected with her Walmart clothing brand.
“In March 1996, my world came crashing in,” Gifford wrote. “A man stood up in Congress and accused me of operating sweatshops in Honduran factories to manufacture my Walmart clothing line. He represented himself as a human rights activist, when in reality, he worked for UNITE, a garment industry lobby that desperately wanted to unionize the world’s largest retailer.”
According to the New York Times, the man Gifford referred to was Charles Kernaghan, executive director of the National Labor Committee Education Fund in Support of Worker and Human Rights in Central America. Kernaghan alleged in front of Congress on April 29, 1996, that Gifford’s clothing line was being produced by young teenagers in Honduran factories while working 20-hour days.
“I was obviously blindsided,” Gifford revealed in her memoir. “All hell broke loose. Nobody cared about the truth. Nobody. I went to every network I had worked for – including my employer at the time, ABC. To their shame, and my disbelief, not one of them reported the truth about my accuser’s lies or the truth about him.”
Kathie Lee Gifford endured ‘months’ of ‘vicious attacks’
Gifford was hosting her popular morning show with Regis Philbin at the time, where she began fearing for her job.
“The vicious attacks went on for months with no sign of letting up,” the Today Show alum recalled. “There were calls for me to be fired from Live with Regis and Kathie Lee. Thankfully, ABC understood that the accusations were false and designed to ultimately damage Walmart’s reputation with no regard to mine.”
Though the network kept Gifford on the air, she felt that ABC could have done more to clear her name.
“I was grateful for their support,” she wrote, “but still hurt when they refused to cover my accuser’s apology to me and my family.”
Larry King let Kathie Lee Gifford tell her side of the story
Working in television for decades, Gifford knew many big names in news and entertainment. One top CNN journalist reached out to her during her professional crisis.
“During the darkest period of the insanity, my longtime friend Larry King called to ask me to come on his show,” Gifford shared. “I knew he would be fair because both [Gifford’s husband] Frank and I had always been treated fairly by him in the past.”
Gifford credited supportive friends like King for helping her overcome such a tumultuous time in her life and career.
“I am so grateful to all the people who continued to believe and me,” she wrote, “and continued to trust my heart through the most difficult times of my life.”
King died on Jan. 23, 2021. Gifford posted a tribute to her friend following his passing.
“Another sad goodbye to a pioneering legend and good friend, Larry King,” Gifford tweeted. “He was always prepared, always respectful and always very kind to me and to Frank. He will be greatly missed. Love and comfort to his family.”