Gabrielle Giffords has first TV interview since shooting, says she is ‘getting stronger’

November 16, 2011

Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman who was shot in the head while at a constituent event in Tucson in January ,appeared on national television for her first TV interview since the shooting. As Felicia Somnez reported:

Ten months after a gunman shot her at point-blank range at a constituent event in Tucson, Rep. Gabrielle Gifffords (D-Ariz.) appeared on national television Monday night, sang along to the Broadway show tune “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” and said she wanted to get better more than she wanted to return to Congress.

Appearing on ABC News’s “20/20” with Diane Sawyer, Giffords struggled to form sentences and needed help walking.

The show documented her difficult journey back from the damage inflicted by a bullet that fractured her skull and pierced the left side of her brain, passing from the front to the back of her head.

Three months ago, she made a surprise return to the House to triumphantly cast her vote on the debt-ceiling deal.

In her first television interview since the January shooting that killed six and wounded 13, Giffords smiled, laughed and sang — and described her recovery as “difficult.”

Asked by Sawyer how she feels, Giffords, 41, responded, “Pretty good.”

The interview with Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, was part of an hour-long “20/20” special that aired on the eve of the release of the couple’s new book, “Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope.”

Giffords also released an audio message on her Facebook page to her supporters and constituents, telling them she was getting stronger. As Rachel Weiner explained:

After months out of the spotlight, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) is going public.

Staffers have for months downplayed speculation about Giffords’ return to politics, saying it was too early in her recovery from a gunshot wound to the head the congresswoman suffered during an assassination attempt at at event in her southern Arizona congressional district.

Now the Congresswoman herself is addressing the issue of when (and if) she will return to Congress. “I want to go back to work,” Giffords said in an audio message published this morning on her Facebook page.

“Hello, this is Gabby Giffords. I miss you,” she says in the message. “I’m getting stronger. I’m getting better.” In the meantime, she says, “My staff is there to help you. They keep me informed on your behalf.” At the same time, she acknowledges her own struggle to enunciate words: “There is lots to say. I will speak better.” (The full audio is at the bottom of this post.)

Giffords’ husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, told ABC’s Diane Sawyer on Monday night that his wife won’t make a decision on her political future just yet, adding only that it would come sometime before the May 2012 filing deadline.

Arizona State Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D) told a local news station that she expects Giffords to make an announcement in January, around the one-year anniversary of the shooting.

If Giffords runs for re-election, she is almost certain to win. Challenging someone who has become a national hero is a herculean task.

Her husband Mark Kelly said that his wife is continuing the long road of recovery and that while she struggled to form sentences, her speech was improving. As AP reported:

The Giffords interview was accompanied by video her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, shot documenting Giffords’ recovery. The initial days and weeks showed her struggling to understand what had happened and to communicate in the most basic forms. She struggled just to learn how to nod, to raise two fingers. When her therapist asked what one sits in, she replied “Spoon,” before later settling on “chair.”

Eventually, she learned to speak again and smile.

Kelly said he documented her recovery because he knew she would astonish her skeptics.

“Gabby Giffords is too tough to let this beat her,” Kelly said.

Kelly said Tuesday morning his wife is “still improving” and that she’s interested in returning to Congress, if possible.

He also said that he would not run if she’s unable to do so, saying “it’s my job to make sure she can get better so she can go back to her career serving her constituents in southern Arizona.”

Kelly said in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that his wife at this point is working on “just stringing her sentences together” and said viewers of the couple’s interview on the network Monday night “didn’t see that so much” but said that “it’s going to happen.”

Kelly said his wife wants to run but hasn’t made the decision yet, adding that “she’ll know” when it’s right.

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