Now Reading
Giffords: No congressional return until 'better'

From the archive: This story is more than 10 years old.

Giffords: No congressional return until 'better'

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, reaching for words in her first television interview since Jan. 8, said she won't return to Congress until she is "better."

"No. Better," she said when ABC's Diane Sawyer asked if she wants to return to her seat in the House.

The 20/20 interview was broadcast Monday night, some 10 months after Giffords was shot through the left side of her brain in what authorities charge was an assassination attempt.

The TV report bore the hallmarks of a 20/20 celebrity interview: gelled lights, a sedate musical score and soft questions in soft tones from Diane Sawyer.

There was little breaking news in the program; most of Sawyer's report conveyed information familiar to everyone in Southern Arizona.

Even so, beyond being an effective recap for a national audience, it presented the first vivid look most people have had into the trials of Giffords' lengthy rehabilitation. Home movies—many made by her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly—show the congresswoman shattered and battered in a hospital bed. In others, she struggles to relearn to speak.

In one clip, a therapist coaches Giffords to sigh, to nod, and to pucker her lips.

As someone who's experienced how lively and charming Giffords can be, it was very moving and troubling to see her struggle to mouth even the simplest of words.

But her personality came through in the short interview with Sawyer. Sitting next to her husband, Giffords joked with Kelly about her distaste for football.

"Awful, awful, awful," she said, as her husband jokingly tried to tell Sawyer she enjoys it.

"Stinks," Giffords said, smiling.

Giffords speaks in halting phrases, gesturing when words won't come, even after months of therapy. Even so, her doctors have said her recovery is remarkable, and that she will continue to improve.

She walks with a limp in her right leg, and says using her right arm is "difficult." She has lost 50 percent of her vision.

When talking of those who were killed on Jan. 8, Giffords remains incapable of fully expressing the profound emotions she must feel.

"Tough, tough, tough, tough," she said, tears forming in her eyes.

Asked if she is angry about what happened, Giffords said, "No, no, no. Life, life."

"No. Better," she said when asked if she wants to go back to Congress, reaching for words, moving her arm forward and looking into the distance, in a gesture to the future.

"She wants to get better," Kelly said, completing her thought.

"Yes, yes, yes," she said, when asked if she'd return to Congress if her condition improves.

A more immediate goal?

"Certainly stringing a bunch of phrases together," Kelly said, interviewed without his wife.

And perhaps a vacation. Giffords and Kelly are planning a trip to Africa, they said.

As for the potential dangers of returning to Congress and going back under the media microscope, "I'll do my best to protect her in whatever she chooses to do," Kelly said.

"You can't have too much hope. It's not a practical thing to do," he said.

The TV interview came as Giffords' and Kelly's joint memoir, "Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope," hits the shelves Tuesday.

Beyond the 20/20 interview, the national media hullabaloo over Giffords and Kelly jumped a notch Monday, with word that he is appearing on the cover of Esquire magazine

Kelly fronts the December cover story on "The Americans of the Year."

The Esquire cover follows a People magazine cover appearance by Giffords and Kelly, with excerpts book.

New York Magazine this week features a lengthy examination of Giffords' recovery, "What Would Gabby Do?," that looks at her options for a political future. It's a piece long on speculation and short on named sources.

— 30 —

Top headlines

Best in Internet Exploder