The truth behind Michael Strahan's exit from Live!

Michael Strahan sent everyone's jaws to the floor when he announced in April 2016 that he was leaving the daytime talk show Live! with Kelly and Michael for Good Morning America. News of his departure reportedly enraged co-host Kelly Ripa and launched one of the biggest scandals daytime television had seen in years. 

The tabloids went crazy, reporting every "insider" and "source" claim about how the hosts supposedly couldn't stand one another behind-the-scenes, and how Strahan's exit cause a nasty ripple effect for everyone else involved with the show. 

So, how did it all go down? And what kind of mess did it create? We've got all the details about Ripa's powerful reaction, the network's serious missteps, and the nitty-gritty on what had previously appeared to be a happy-go-lucky TV relationship. Were these two sunny co-hosts secretly at war with one another? Stay tuned for the truth behind Michael Strahan's exit from Live!

Can Strahan ever fully leave Live! behind?

Strahan addressed his Live! exit for years after it happened. He told Chelsea Handler in June 2016 that he hadn't been watching much of his former show, and that he hasn't "missed it," because he later realized how much he "needed a break." He was careful to add, "But I loved it. Don't get me wrong. I loved it." Oh boy. 

A few years later, Strahan sat down with Graham Bensinger, where he laid out his most extensive thoughts on his exit, claiming, "There's nothing I would have done differently," and that he "handled it as professional as you can handle it." When asked why he would ever leave a show on which he was such a big star, Strahan called that point of view "selfish," and said that his pro sports background laid the foundation for his media career. "I've gotten [my success] from working with other people. ... I could care less about having my name on the show. ... I just want to be in great working environments, working with great people, having great experience, man." 

If that sounded like minor shade, things got downright chilly in January 2019, when Strahan told Time the he hadn't "spoken to [Ripa] in a long time." Of the drama surrounding his departure, he said, "I learned through all that went down with that, you can't convince people to like you." 

But there was (allegedly) a whole lot more to the story...  

Word got out that they hated each other

While all of the drama was unfolding backstage, multiple reports leaked to the press alleging Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan didn't get along. According to TMZ, Ripa allegedly bullied Strahan and was jealous of all the attention he had received since joining Live! in 2012. As for Strahan, TMZ claimed he was "at war" with the show's executive producer for the first year and "made things uncomfortable for everyone." Sources also suggested Strahan was not "present enough" on Live! because of his part-time duties with GMA.

Insiders who spoke with Page Six about the alleged co-host drama also claimed that "whenever they communicated off-camera, it was always through their reps.

TMZ sources said Ripa "made it clear she'd be a happy camper" if Strahan left the show before his originally scheduled departure in September 2016. Both co-hosts were reportedly very uncomfortable sitting next to each other and putting on happy faces amid the drama.

Disney botched the announcement

If anyone is to be blamed for the dramatic way Michael Strahan's exit played out, it's probably ABC's parent company, Disney. According to TMZ, Kelly Ripa was informed that Strahan was leaving Live! around 10:30 a.m. on April 19, 2016 — just as Disney was about to make the announcement to the press. 

TMZ claims Disney CEO Bob Iger actually ordered Strahan not to say anything about his exit, and Iger reportedly didn't even give Ripa a courtesy phone call about it. Strahan supposedly wanted to "do the right thing" by telling Ripa himself, according to a source for People. "It was important to him. He wanted to tell her in person and give her months notice," the source said.

Several months after Strahan was officially gone from the show, and the media storm was over, Disney/ABC executive Ben Sherwood told The Hollywood Reporter, "We made some mistakes, we fixed them quickly and we moved on. ... I certainly learned that more communication is better."

Ripa felt blindsided

Almost immediately after Michael Strahan's exit went public, word got out that Kelly Ripa felt blindsided by Strahan and Disney over the way they delivered the news to her. TMZ said she felt particularly disrespected by Disney, which wouldn't be surprising, given that she's spent the last 15 years co-hosting the popular morning show. Even worse, Ripa reportedly felt personally stabbed in the back by Strahan for not giving her a heads up.

Ripa chose not to show up to work the following day, leaving Strahan to address his exit alongside his last-minute replacement, Ana Gasteyer. "I've been in the news lately," Strahan quipped to Gasteyer. "I was reading some stuff and it sounded like I died," he continued. "But I do want to say to all of our viewers out there ... thank you guys, I couldn't ask for better fans at all." He then curiously offered to guest host occasionally in the future.  

Ripa, on the other hand, apparently maintained radio silence until April 22, 2016, when she sent an email to staffers saying she'd return to work April 26, 2016, following her pre-scheduled vacation to celebrate her 20th anniversary. Suddenly, her return became appointment television.

Ripa came back in a big way

When Kelly Ripa made her dramatic return to Live! on April 26, 2016, she immediately explained her side of the story. "I needed a couple of days to gather my thoughts [on the situation]. After 26 years with this company, I earned the right, " she said. "What transpired over the course of a few days has been extraordinary, in the sense that it started a much greater conversation about communication, and consideration, and most importantly, respect in the workplace."

According to TMZ, Ripa's decision to return to Live! came only after a "tough talk" with network bosses. "The best thing to come out of all of this ... is that our parent company has assured me that Live! is a priority," she said. "There is a commitment to this show, and the people who work here and, most importantly, to you, the viewers who have watched us every day for 30 years."

Strahan was shown the door quickly

With Kelly Ripa firmly back in her chair, one thing quickly became clear: between her highly-publicized absence and rumors of backstage feuding, there was no way Michael Strahan was going to stay on Live! until September 2016. Mere hours after Ripa's return episode aired, ABC issued a statement to People announcing that Michael would say good bye in May, "which not only gives the show the chance to have a nice send-off for him during the May book, but to also immediately begin the on-air search for a new co-host."

Although some might argue this decision meant that Ripa "got her way" with ABC, she still managed to make Strahan's final weeks on the show extremely awkward, to say the least. In one episode later that week, Ripa made a thorny joke about contract negotiations. The following day, she brought up Strahan's highly publicized divorces. She did manage to pull it together to bid him a cordial farewell on his last day. "We really are so, so proud of you," she said. "We achieved so much together and I look forward to watching you every morning and seeing what else you achieve."

The search for a new co-host began

Amid reports that Michael Strahan's presence at Live! had been wiped clean less than 24 hours after his departure, the show went straight to work to see if it could find a formidable replacement. Thus began a seemingly endless amount of speculation as to who might land the coveted gig. 

Reports ranged from the obvious (Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper, both of whom are close friends of Kelly Ripa's) to the inspired (Rob Lowe, who's guest-hosted before) to the downright bizarre (Fred Savage, anyone?) With so many names being floated around, many expected Live! to reach a decision by the time its new season premiered in September 2016. That didn't happen. 

Finally, in May 2017, more than a year after Strahan's controversial exit, radio and TV personality Ryan Seacrest became Ripa's marquee co-host. Finally, Live! with Kelly and Ryan was born, albeit not without the same amount of drama that surrounded Strahan's exit. 

Ripa got a huge promotion

In April 2016, Kelly Ripa told her millions of viewers that Disney promised to make Live! a priority in the months ahead. According to Page Six, the company delivered on its word by promoting Ripa to executive producer. To sweeten the deal, Page Six said "Disney boss Bob Iger personally stepped in to smooth things over with Ripa when she got the new title." 

Meanwhile, reports from earlier in the summer alleged Ripa had begun to rule Live! with an iron fist to prevent another Strahan fiasco. "From the bookings to the comedy bits ... It all has to be approved or suggested by Kelly," a source told Page Six. "They are now calling her 'Queen Kelly' [backstage]. It's like her royal court." A rep for the show dismissed that dirt, claiming, "The hosts of Live! always have had major input with regard to the production of the show. This report is completely false."

Her staff got stuck with a ton of extra work

Page Six claimed the staff of Live! had to work extra hard over the summer to make up for Michael Strahan's absence. "The team had fewer days off this summer than they usually do," a production source told the tab. "Most shows are on hiatus in August and [the Live! team] ended up working. They did more shows in August than they normally would have." The insider added, "The whole staff has to do preparation differently because when you have a regular co-host, their own team does it, but when it's different every day, it is more work."

People also acknowledge the extra workload but claimed the whole thing turned out to be a positive experience. "While it's true that Michael leaving made for a much more grueling summer for everyone because of the additional work required to prep a new cohost every day, the whole staff has actually bonded over it," a source claimed. 

Strahan finally debuted on Good Morning America

Some sources claimed that when Michael Strahan made his exit, the Live! crew was actually pretty happy to see him go. "The photo of Kelly [Ripa] and Michael in the lobby was already replaced with a picture of just Kelly, and the logo ... was changed to Live With Kelly not even 24 hours after he left the building," a source told Page Six. Another insider added, "There was a celebratory atmosphere [the first day Strahan was gone]. It was like the first day of school."

After nearly half a year's worth of scandal, Strahan finally debuted on Good Morning America on Sept. 6, 2016 to little fanfare. Deadline reported that his first episode was "happy and collegial" and lacked any of the drama from his exit from Live! Meanwhile, over on the newly titled Live! with Kelly, which debuted on the same day, Strahan's former co-host made no mention of his new gig. 

Andy Cohen dissed Michael Strahan

Michael Strahan was allegedly peeved when Andy Cohen, a longtime Kelly Ripa pal, criticized his exit on his Radio Andy show on SiriusXM in April 2016. "It just seems like a premature end to a great relationship ... I can't say this went down in the greatest way," Cohen said, adding that he "didn't understand" why Strahan would ever leave that gig. "It's a job you take and you take it for life ... you keep that job. You don't go anywhere," Cohen said. "He was co-hosting Live With Kelly and Michael. Your name is in the freaking title!"

A few weeks later, Strahan reportedly confronted Cohen at the Met Gala. "He said it hurt his feelings ... that he was so surprised I joined the pileup," Cohen wrote his his book, Superficial: More Adventures From the Andy Cohen Diaries. "I said, 'Dude, I really like you and I wasn't going in on you.'" Cohen claimed the two hugged it out.

Is there still bad blood with Ripa?

Michael Strahan felt like he was painted as the villain in his Live! transition to GMA, which reportedly led to the demise of his friendship with Kelly Ripa. "The most disappointing thing to me was that I was painted as the bad guy, because I value the way I carry myself," Strahan told People in September 2016. He added, "At one point I think we were friends. I don't know what happened at the end. I learned a lot from her ... Toward the end of it all, we didn't really communicate that much. I kinda looked at it like, 'It was what it was.'"

While Strahan may have been happy to clear the air and reveal his side of everything that went down in regards to his Live! exit, his bosses at ABC supposedly weren't too thrilled about Strahan rehashing the drama with People. A source told Page Six, "They are pissed at him for mentioning Kelly Ripa in his interview. Big surprise there. They thought he was over it, and here he is rehashing it. It's sort of obvious they wouldn't be happy ... Everyone thought he'd moved on."