Kelly Ripa Returns to ‘Live!’: ‘Our Long National Nightmare Is Over’ (Video)

“It started a much greater conversation about communication and consideration and most importantly, respect in the workplace,” co-host says after four-day hiatus

Kelly Ripa returned to “Live! With Kelly and Michael” on Tuesday after a four-episode hiatus, walking out hand-in-hand with departing co-host Michael Strahan before addressing the audience.

“Our long national nightmare is over,” Ripa joked after receiving a standing ovation from the studio audience. “I’m going to be completely honest, I’m fairly certain that there are trained professional snipers with tranquilizer darts in case I drift too far off message. I first want to honestly, sincerely thank you for welcoming me back to the show.”

Ripa skipped the show following the fallout from last week’s decision to move co-host Michael Strahan to “Good Morning America.” She was widely reported to be furious with the way the situation was handled by executives at ABC, where she has worked both on the soap “All My Children” and “Live.”

Ripa went on to say that the show of support has been “overwhelming.”

“I needed a couple of days to gather my thoughts. After 26 years with this company I earned the right,” Ripa said before joking that members of the studio audience probably called in sick to attend the show.

“In that time, I gained some perspective. I always speak from the heart, I didn’t want to out here and just, like, say something I might regret,” said Ripa, who has co-hosted “Live” since 2001, first with Regis Philbin. “What transpired, though, 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.”

Ripa said she doesn’t consider the show simply a workplace but her “second home,” mentioning “apologies have been made” and ABC has assured her that “Live!” is a priority.

Ripa said she is thrilled for Strahan and his new opportunity at “GMA,” and happy about what they have accomplished together. She wrapped up her monologue by saying that her father, a bus driver, thinks they’re all crazy.

“I’m so happy you’re back,” Strahan said. “I love you.”

Three top ABC execs and Strahan himself have apologized to Ripa prior to this morning’s episode, according to CNN Money, and “expressed regret for the way Kelly was told the news.”

Fans of the co-hosts may want to savor their remaining days together. Buzz on the “Live” set is that Strahan’s exit, initially timed for sometime this summer, could happen as early as next month, to take advantage of the May “sweeps” ratings period.

Strahan will start as a permanent co-host of “GMA” in September as the flagship morning show attempts to widen the ratings gap with rivals “Today” and “CBS This Morning.”

Check out the entire segment above.