Despite Matt Lauer having been let go from the Today show over allegations of sexual misconduct, Kathie Lee Gifford admitted she was still close with former news anchor one year after his firing, People reported.
Gifford — who is preparing for her own exit from the popular morning show, after 11 years with the program — explained to the news outlet that she has been in contact with Matt as recently as last week, and prays for him often, because “that’s what a friendship means to me.”
“I’ve been through very, very hard times in my life and I saw my friends drop away because they weren’t my friends. Times like that test the mettle of friendships,” she said. “The Matt I love is the Matt I still do.”
The Today show terminated Lauer’s employment in November of 2017 after the allegations were reported, with the former news anchor himself admitting in a statement that there was “enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed or ashamed,” per Variety.
In the year since the scandal first broke, the 61-year-old has stayed out of the spotlight, quietly retreating to the Hamptons compound he shares with his family. He is said to be working out the terms of his reported $20 million divorce from his wife, Annette Roque.
“He made mistakes and he paid dearly for them. But I believe in second, third and 100 chances. I believe in redemption because Jesus did,” Kathie Lee told the news outlet.
The television personality continued to defend their relationship, explaining that it was not her position to judge Matt for his actions.
“My job is to be his friend and be there for him. He’s found out who his real friends are,” she said.
Kathie Lee Gifford Says She’s Still Close with Matt Lauer: 'That's What Friendship Means to Me' https://t.co/HTqvQsz4GC— People (@people) March 27, 2019
Kathie Lee also found herself in somewhat of a predicament in the aftermath of Lauer’s firing, as she had already been planning her own departure from the Today show — hoping to follow her dream of writing and producing Christian films.
The 65-year-old had already given her notice to her bosses at NBC. However, upon Lauer’s dismissal, Gifford was asked if she would consider postponing her exit, something which she agreed to without hesitation.
Kathie Lee’s decision to stay with the the program for the extra year and a half was praised by her longtime pal Hoda Kotb, who described her friend as “loyal” and an “incredible team player.”
“She stayed during the hugely tumultuous time. But she loves this place,” said Kotb, who has sat next to Kathie Lee for the last 11 years to co-host the Today show’s fourth-hour segment. “She stayed for all the right reasons.”