More than a year after Lauer was fired from Todayover sexual misconduct allegations, Gifford tells Peoplethat she is still in contact with him.
"I was texting him last week and praying for him this morning. That’s what a friendship means to me," Gifford says. "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. The Matt I love is the Matt I still do."
"He made mistakes and he paid dearly for them. But I believe in second, third and 100 chances," Gifford continues. "I believe in redemption because Jesus did. And it’s not for me to judge any choices he made. That’s between him, his wife and his God."
"My job is to be his friend and be there for him," she adds. "He’s found out who his real friends are."
Gifford's comments about Lauer echo ones she made at the time of his firing back in 2017.
"I don't feel that Matt has betrayed us," Gifford said on Today at the time. "... I texted him this morning and I said, 'I adore you.' No one is perfect in this world. We need now is forgiveness and mercy for one another."
On Tuesday, Lauer was seen flying home from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. An eyewitness said he was travelling solo, kept to himself and no one approached him.
Meanwhile, his former Today colleagues -- Gifford and her longtime co-host, Hoda Kotb -- were out celebrating Gifford ahead of her departure from the show after 11 years. ET's Nischelle Turner caught up with the pair at Gifford's farewell party, where they reflected on their time together.
"Hoda is sunshine in a bottle. And I think Hoda came into my life when I think I lost a lot of sunshine. I was kind of weary and worn out from life," Gifford said. "I was blessed and had a beautiful husband and a beautiful family, my kids were amazing and great success beyond my wildest dreams, but I had the crap kicked out of me a lot in life and I think I just had some wounds and all of a sudden she was... a little balm for my soul."
"She's the best friend you can have and I'm blessed to have several," Gifford continued. "... I'm gonna miss Hoda for sure... I'm gonna miss the days that it so clicked with us that... I knew it was just put this in a bottle and just cherish it because it's rare. I've been in this a long time."
The feeling is mutual for Kotb, who considers the day she met Gifford to be a "big line of demarcation."
"I feel like everything changed and got better and got happier. I felt more fulfilled," Kotb said of meeting Gifford. "And I felt like I took risks that I never thought I could take, and I felt... I met the person I was supposed to meet, and had the child I was supposed to have and it all began."
"She was already family and it just made sense. And she and Hoda have a beautiful relationship," Gifford said of Bush Hager, to whom she was happy to offer some advice.
"I said, you know what Jenna, you know what got you this job? You being you. And you being gracious and kind for the last eight years. And you being you and you bringing your game," Gifford said of the advice she gave her replacement. "You know what you got to do on Monday when you sit down after I've left on Friday? You be you."