Michael Strahan will depart from Live! With Kelly and Michael after under four years on Friday, and co-host Kelly Ripa is “excited” for the soon-to-be Good Morning America star – despite how the news of Strahan’s departure played out in the last few weeks.
Ripa exclusively opens up to PEOPLE for this week’s cover story, on newsstands Friday, about why she decided to take a stand for herself after being blindsided by the announcement that Strahan was moving on – information she learned at almost the same time as the media.
“There’s a part of me that can say, ‘Okay, I understand. This may have been an oversight,'” Ripa explains of getting the information late. “And again, after 26 years, at this point we are like a family. And sometimes when you are so comfortable with somebody, you may not give them the same consideration as somebody you’re not as comfortable with – a certain formality falls away.”
A source told PEOPLE in April that Ripa felt “betrayed and so hurt” by how Strahan’s announcement was handled, and she later explained to the show’s audience that the entire scenario highlighted the importance of “communication, consideration and, most importantly, respect in the workplace.”
“I think that all people are deserving of fair treatment in the work place. People deserve respect,” Ripa tells PEOPLE. “People should be treated equally and with dignity.”
She continues, “I think that requires a certain amount of empathy on a level. When you’re dealing with big business, it’s easy to forget that you’re dealing with people and that people have feelings. It’s easy to just look at it like a business unit, a unit…”
Despite the drama, Ripa tells PEOPLE of Strahan, ABC, and Live!: “I’m not dealing with monsters. I don’t think of anybody as a monster or out to get me. But sometimes stability and dependability can be misinterpreted as passive. Like, ‘Oh, we don’t have to worry about her, she’s fine. She’s fine.'”
She continues, “And I am fine, but I need assurances that we’re all going to be fine.”
The 45-year-old mom of three is also explaining why she skipped Live! the day after Strahan’s April announcement, jetting off on a week-long anniversary trip with husband Mark Consuelos.
“I think what people need to understand about the entire situation is that I didn’t just not show up,” she says. As she was being informed of Strahan’s departure, “I said, in the room, ‘I am going to take the day off.’ I needed to actually sit and gather information. I needed to make sure I said the appropriate things on TV and didn’t just come out and say whatever.”
Ripa contends that she understands that “things happen,” explaining, “I get it. We’re excited for Michael. He wanted that job, and it’s great for him. I think it is a perfect match, I really do. However, what nobody considered is there’s a whole other group of people that it really impacts, because we have to now find another great person.”
And finding the perfect “chemistry and camaraderie and trust” isn’t easy: “It doesn’t fall out of the sky. It takes a lot of work, and it takes a group discussion.”
The host says that she was concerned for more than just herself, as a lot of members of the Live! “family” count on show stability for their jobs. She shares, “In that moment there were people looking at me, saying, ‘Tell us this is going to be okay. Are we going to be okay?'”
Disney/ABC, which owns and syndicates Live!, has since assured Ripa of her and the show’s value, assuaging any fear.
Now, with those assurances firmly in place, Ripa has reached a state of forgiveness.
“People make mistakes, and we’re all human,” she tells PEOPLE. “They’re human and I’m human. We all have these moments, and it’s about how you move forward and how you begin again.”
Live! With Kelly and Michael airs weekdays (check local listings).