Hoda Kotb will speak at Tulane University’s graduation ceremony even after the Louisiana college’s announcement was met with fierce criticism from some students, who felt they were “cheated” by the choice.
Tulane students signed a petition to demand a new speaker after it was decided that the NBC Today show co-host would deliver this year’s keynote address in May. “Given the amount of money, work, and passion we have poured into our educational careers at Tulane, we think we deserve better than this,” read the petition, that has since been taken down, according to local media reports.
The short-lived petition, which attracted around 200 signatures, also said picking Kotb as the honored guest was an “embarrassment” to the graduating class and school because she is “hardly an inspirational figure,” the Advocate reported.
Kotb addressed the petition in a brief statement to WWL-TV. “Forget the petition, I love the response. I love New Orleans! See you soon!” she wrote. In Tulane’s news release, she said the city and its people “have always held a special place in my heart.” “Having lived here and covered the world, I know the importance of Tulane both locally and internationally,” she said in the release. “I am thrilled to honor a new generation of New Orleanians as they earn their Tulane degrees.”
The Emmy Award-winning former New Orleans anchor is also a correspondent for Dateline, according to Tulane. “Who doesn’t love Hoda?” Tulane President Mike Fitts said in a statement. “Her infectious personality and indomitable spirit pervade everything she does from reporting to writing to advocating for breast cancer awareness. She is the perfect choice to address our graduates.”
Today co-host Kathie Lee Gifford praised Kotb in a tweet, saying there was “boundless support” for her.