Return to Transcripts main page


Interview with Mark Kelly

Aired November 23, 2011 - 21:00   ET


PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, an extraordinary love story. The astronaut and the congresswoman. A modern day fairytale until a bullet changed everything.

Now Gabby Giffords is fighting her way back from the brain injury that nearly killed her. And she is doing it all with her husband Mark Kelly by her side.

MARK KELLY, AUTHOR, "GABBY: A STORY OF COURAGE AND HOPE": She'll come back stronger than ever. I'm convinced.

MORGAN: Tonight, Mark Kelly on his wife's incredible courage.

KELLY: I know if anybody can pull themselves out of this horrible situation, it's her. I know that she has it within her to fight back.

MORGAN: On their lives today.

KELLY: You know our lives are much different than it was before. Much, much different.

MORGAN: And in the future. Will Gabby run again?

KELLY: It's looking pretty good that she'll be in a position where she can make the decision to run for her seat again.

MORGAN: Mark Kelly for the hour. This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

Almost a year ago, Jared Lee Loughner shot Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head during a voters event in a supermarket parking lot. Giffords suffered a major brain injury, six bystanders were killed, more than a dozen others were injured. And at first it wasn't even clear that Gabby Giffords would survive. But she did, and she'd gone on to make remarkable strides, the few of us could have ever imagined that fateful day.

Her husband, retired astronaut, Mark Kelly, and Gabby, chronicled their experience in a new book called, "Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope."

And Mark Kelly joins me now.

Mark, it's an extraordinary book. I mean it's been an extraordinary year. Your lives were remarkable, anyway. You know, you're one of America's great astronauts. Gabby, a hugely successful congresswoman.

You didn't need anything else to make your lives more dramatic. And then this fateful day, everything is turned upside down.

Take me back to that day. How did it start for you?

KELLY: Well, it was -- for us, it was typical. A lot of Saturdays, we would spend apart. She'd spend most of her time in her district in Tucson on the weekends, but I was home that weekend with my daughters, Claudia and Claire, and it was a typical Saturday, and just received out of nowhere a call from Gabby's chief of staff, Pia Carusone, who said, I don't know how to tell you this, but Gabby has been shot.

And you know, just -- that, you know, put us on this trajectory, this rollercoaster ride that's lasted for the last 10 months. It's been -- it's been quite incredible.

MORGAN: I mean, you're a trained astronaut. And I would imagine part of that training is being able to stay calm under extreme pressure. And also, you have to go in to each mission with the possibility, based on history, that you may not come back. So you're used to extremities of pressure and so on. Could anything prepare you for that call?

KELLY: Well, it's interesting. You know, I've spent 25 years flying airplanes in the Navy and then 15 years flying the space shuttle at NASA through four missions. And after having a chance to reflect on it later, I did see, you know, some parallels between what I had to deal with in flying airplanes and flying the space shuttle and what I had to deal with in handling this situation.

I mean, it often came up that I would -- I would think about these things in the context of, you know, what's the information do I have? You know, what kind of decision do I need to be -- do I need to make and do I need to make the decision right now, or can this wait?

So, you know, to some extent, it did -- it did prepare me for dealing with this.

MORGAN: Reading the book, you can't really comprehend what you've been told. And you ring back to get more information, didn't you?

KELLY: Yes, so I wasn't even sure -- after I got off the phone with Pia, it was a very short conversation. And then I woke my younger daughter Claire up. She was sleeping. And I started putting things in motion. And then I just said to myself, is this really possible that Gabby actually just got shot at her -- corner event which I knew she was going to. So I had to open up my phone or look at my BlackBerry and saw that, yes, Pia did actually call.

MORGAN: It began to flash around the world, I was on a plane. I remembered. Across America somewhere, reading on the Internet this extraordinary breaking news story. And you know not to the credit of the media at all. Because a lot of the information was wrong. A lot of people were beginning to write as a fact, reputable news organizations, that Gabby had lost her life.

Were you hearing the same kind of erroneous information?

KELLY: Yes. I was on my friend's airplane, a gentleman named Tilman Fertitta, who was very -- yes, who was very -- you know, very generous when I said hey, I need to get to Tucson right away and he said I'll have my airplane ready for you. And by probably within an hour and a half, two hours, after this happened, we were in the airplane flying to Tucson when it was reported by a couple cable news networks that Gabby had, in fact, died.

And you know, fortunately, other folks who were watching that, and Tilman in particular was able to get me the information that, A, this -- it's just seems to be something wrong with this story. And I started making some phone calls.

MORGAN: For those minutes, however long you had to --

KELLY: It's probably about 30 minutes.

MORGAN: For 30 minutes, you thought your wife was dead.

KELLY: Yes. Yes, it was tough. It was a tough situation. My mother screamed. Kids started crying. I just got up, walked into the -- into the airplane's bathroom, and you know just broke down. And it was a difficult period of time. But in hindsight, looking at it, you know, that was the low point. And it's all been pretty positive since then.

MORGAN: Well, certainly, compared to that half an hour.


MORGAN: Life has gone incredibly happier for you, because your wife is still with you.

KELLY: Yes, immediately. As soon as we found out she wasn't --

MORGAN: How did you find out that she was still alive?

KELLY: Well, I --

MORGAN: For a fact?

KELLY: So the airplane also had a phone. So I called Gabby's chief of staff, Pia, who said, well, this doesn't sound right either, because Gabby was in surgery, and if she had, in fact, died, somebody would have told her mother, who was outside the operating room nearby. And Gloria hadn't been told anything. So then they checked, and she was still, you know, having her first of a few neurosurgeries.

MORGAN: The plane lands, and you rush to the hospital. What is the first thing that you find there when you get there?

KELLY: Well, it was a busy day. And I'm not even so sure if I have everything that happened in the right order anymore. But I remember going into a room where Gabby's parents and her sister, Melissa, her parents, Gloria and Spencer were in this room. And then initially one of her neurosurgeons and the trauma surgeons that treated her were there, and they explained that she -- she had this gunshot wound to the -- you know, to the left side of her head.

And they went -- in and did surgery, and removed part of her skull. And that she is going to -- she'll survive. And beyond that, they couldn't really tell us much.

You know, from a former life when I was in high school, I used to drive an ambulance in an inner city. And I've dealt with gunshot wounds to the head before with patients that I've picked up. And I knew what the consequences of that was.

You know, I knew that -- you know, first surviving that injury is pretty miraculous, very low percentage of people survive it. And then people that -- it's very rare that somebody actually recovers from it.

MORGAN: So even though you were being given good news, there was a sense of foreboding about what the future would hold for you.

KELLY: Yes. Absolutely. I mean we really had no idea. I mean, I was always positive. I knew -- I know Gabby very well. I know if anybody can pull themselves out of this, this horrible situation, it's her. You know, that she has it within her to fight back. You know, first fight back to survive. And then to fight back as she does every single day to regain, you know, these abilities that she's lost.

MORGAN: Did you sense -- I mean, I was again on this plane now hearing Gabby Giffords is not dead. She is fighting back in surgery. I remember reading this. And everyone going crazy. And it seemed like the whole world was now living this in real-time. Willing her to survive.

Were you getting any sense of how this was playing out around the world, or were you very much locked in that room now?

KELLY: I was pretty focused on what was going on with her. And really not paying attention to what was going on, you know, in the outside. I mean, it wasn't until a few days later that I even knew the name of the person that had shot her. So I was focused on what was going on in the hospital, and making sure she got the right care.

Later, we -- you know, we certainly found out and started receiving massive amounts of e-mail and text messages, and just about people praying for her. And --

MORGAN: There's an amazing moment, Mark, in the book. And this is when you see Gabby for the first time. I'm going to read some of this because it's just so compelling. And tells the story better, I think, than anything I could ask you would possibly do.

"Seeing Gabby for the first time today was a shock. Even when you know what to expect, nothing fully prepares you for this. The doctor has done the emergency shave of all the hair on the left side of her head which was bandaged. She still has hair on the right. In fact she's comatose, hooked to a tracheotomy tube and other lines. Her face was black and blue, her head was terribly swollen, it looked twice its normal size.

"I took it all in, and I told her how much I loved her. I knew she couldn't hear me, but I had to say it. We're going to get through this, I told her my voice breaking, and we're all going to help you."

Incredible stuff to read. I mean I can't even imagine that moment for you. And as I say, it's one of many remarkable extracts in this book. And I read it in one sitting, because it's just so -- it's so raw.

When you saw her like that, if you're honest, looking back on it, did you fear then, you were never going to get your wife back in any kind of normal form?

KELLY: So, yes, part of me feared that. You know, you -- when you asked, you know, one of her doctors, one of her trauma surgeons, he's a very honest guy, you know, former Navy captain like myself who was a trauma surgeon in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said -- he said, you know, we don't know. She could be in a coma for the next four months.

So part of me felt like, you know, this is going to be, you know, a really steep climb for her. And we didn't know how far she was going to be able to pull herself out of this. Like I said, though, I also knew that she's a fighter, and she doesn't give up. And she's fighting every day. You know, every single day to get back.

MORGAN: People use the word "miraculous" a lot, particularly in relation to this kind of situation. But when you consider the facts, which I think presented to you by the experts, that if the bullet had crossed hemispheres, I think is how you put it, a little bit higher, then she would have been killed. A little bit lower, she would have been killed. A little that way, she'd never have spoken again. A little the other way, she'd never have walked again.


MORGAN: It is truly miraculous that she has managed to walk, to talk, and to live. Isn't it?


MORGAN: When you consider what happened.

KELLY: And that was based on a conversation I had with her neurosurgery residents, you know, in the middle of the night when nobody else is around and they start speculating on exactly where the bullet had traveled and looking and showing me the CAT scans. And, you know, they talked about obviously if it crosses hemispheres, it's really bad to have both sides of your brain damaged.

And, you know, the parts of your brain that control, you know, your organs is much lower, and the part that controls your legs is much higher. And it went through an area that they -- those guys ultimately said, you know, I think she'll be able to walk, she'll be able to speak. She'll -- you know, cognitively she should be pretty good.

But the one thing that it looked like would be one of her biggest obstacles to overcome ultimately would be the use of her right arm. And that's been true.

MORGAN: Let's take a break now and come back and talk about the recovery. I want to know about the moments when you first began to realize, I'm getting my Gabby back.




BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right after we went to visit, a few minutes after we left her room and some of her colleagues for -- from Congress were in the room, Gabby opened her eyes for the first time.


OBAMA: Gabby opened her eyes for the first time.


MORGAN: That was President Obama during a memorial ceremony just days after the shooting, giving the nation some good news on Gabby Giffords' condition while Mark Kelly and Michelle Obama listened.

Mark Kelly is back with me now.

Another extraordinary moment there. The president of the United States giving a medical update on your wife. You holding hands with the first lady. Do you remember much of that time, or is that all just a blur to you?

KELLY: Well, about 10 minutes after he walked out of the room, Kirsten Gillibrand and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, two of her very good friends from Congress, were there in the room with us, and they were talking to Gabby, you know, for a good amount of time. And she just opened her eyes. And she had been basically in a coma since then.

And it was a pretty exciting moment to know that, you know, we -- we have part of her back, she's conscious. And then about an hour later, I mentioned that to the president. And then he asked me, would it be OK if I said this during the memorial service? And I thought that was completely appropriate for him to do that.

MORGAN: Did it feel slightly surreal, all this? The president of the United States standing there, you know? Just such a crazy situation that you've got yourself into here, as a family.

KELLY: It was hard to believe, you know, such a -- you know, devastating experience for our family. And then for the families of the other victims. I mean, six of which did -- lost their lives. And the family of Christina Green who, you know, lost their 9-year-old daughter, I mean it's just -- such a tragic, tragic day.

MORGAN: You dedicated the book to the others who lost their lives. And with Gabby, what was the moment for you when you thought for the first time, I may get my wife back?

KELLY: Even before she opened her eyes, she would -- you know, with her eyes closed, she took -- I took my ring off my finger once. And just like she would normally do if we were sitting at dinner in a restaurant, she'd flip it from one finger to the next. And she was --

MORGAN: As she used to do?

KELLY: As she used to do, just like I'm doing here, and she would, you know, just -- you know very naturally, you know -- so you knew she was in there. That there was -- you know that part of her.

MORGAN: I mean that's -- that's fascinating because that's --


MORGAN: That's a conscious thing that she's doing.


MORGAN: Which you recognize as being a thing she used to do.

KELLY: Yes. And the doctors asked me that. Is that something she's done before? I said yes, she used to do that all the time.

MORGAN: What was the first word that she spoke?

KELLY: Well, it was reported that she said the word "toast," which she did around that day. She was actually asking for toast. She got -- you know, the hospital food. They were giving her the same thing for breakfast. But before that, she said the word "what?", and she said it over and over again. Like what, what, what, and it was -- it's almost like her brain was rebooting up again and that's the word it picked to start off.

MORGAN: Were you there when she first said that?

KELLY: I did -- yes, I was standing right there.

MORGAN: How does that feel?

KELLY: Well, it feels great. You know she can -- she can say something. So it's a place to start from. And since then she has been spending a lot of time in speech therapy. And she gets better and better every day.

MORGAN: There's this remarkable interview that you both did with Diane Sawyer for ABC, I want to play a little clip of it, which is Gabby singing, actually.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excellent. I know it's frustrating. But are you going to get through it?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Say it like you mean it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can get through it?



MORGAN: When I saw that, it just sort of -- it cemented to me, and I'm sure to most viewers, the harsh reality of what she had been through. That this wasn't some kind of movie. This was somebody going through a -- sort of complete out of body rehabilitation. And it was tough, hard, every tiny step of the way, right?

KELLY: Well, you know, a lot of people have rehab that affects one part of their body, the relearning how to walk or relearning how to use their limbs or in her case, you know, the -- the speech. And she had to deal with all those every single day. So incredibly exhausting, hard work. But, you know, it's -- it was really great for me to see how dedicated her therapists were and how dedicated she was to it. And it's been -- those parts have been a really positive experience.

MORGAN: How important was music? Because it seemed from the Diane Sawyer program that music played a really pivotal role in her rehab.

KELLY: So speech is mostly controlled on the left side of your brain. But music is on the right side. And Gabby's right side wasn't injured. The bullet went through the left. And one of the ways -- so she very early on, where she couldn't say a sentence, she could sing an entire song. And the speech therapists --

MORGAN: Isn't that amazing?

KELLY: It's amazing. Yes, I mean --

MORGAN: Did you know any of this before?

KELLY: I didn't know any of it. You know, I knew people -- they talk about left brain and right brain, and -- but there's a lot of truth to that.


KELLY: So she would sing a song and the therapist kind of used that to help rebuild connections. They talk about the plasticity of the brain and then it's able to form new connections and they say music is a big part of that.

MORGAN: Were there particular songs or singers that seemed to have a particular effect?

KELLY: Well, things she knew well. When I heard that she had sung, like -- it was either "Happy Birthday" or some very simple song, that evening I said to her, I said -- and I didn't think she would respond at all. I said, can you sing "American Pie?" And she went right into it.

I was amazed. I mean like from beginning to end. I could not do that now. And she did the entire song from beginning to end.

MORGAN: How extraordinary.

KELLY: It was pretty amazing.

MORGAN: So Don McLean has basically got a lot to be thanked for, right?

KELLY: Yes, yes. And U2. I mean, she's a big U2 fan.

MORGAN: Really?

KELLY: So Megan Morrow, the music therapist, would play some U2 and some -- I mean stuff that she's familiar with and likes to hear.

MORGAN: There is another clip I want to play from the Diane Sawyer show, which is when you start to talk to Gabby about the shooting.




GIFFORDS: Sad. Sad. A lot of people died.

DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: It hurts you, right?

GIFFORDS: Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Tough. Tough, tough, tough.


MORGAN: It was quite a while before you could tell Gabby that people had died. How did she react in the moment when you were able to finally tell her?

KELLY: Well, we had a plan that we would tell her things as she asked. And in the beginning, she didn't ask many questions. It was very important that she knew what happened to her. So as soon as we thought she would understand this, I told her that she was shot, who the person was, and what happened.

I didn't tell her about the other people that died that day. And she would read the Arizona papers and the "New York Times" every day and the "Wall Street Journal," she'd go through it. Sometimes she would see on the front page, in this case on this one day, saw the little teaser article on the bottom and -- that talked about her -- an update on her recovery.

So it was very interesting to see her go to that page, and she wanted to read that article. It was kind of like she was saying, you guys have been lying to me this whole time, now I'm going get the real truth.

So I read her the article, and I saw ahead where it mentioned people that had died. So I thought I very seamlessly skipped over that. And she caught me. She was reading over my shoulder and pointed out that I left that out. So at that point, I, you know, read -- didn't have the names, but I read the paragraph, where it talked about six people being killed.

MORGAN: And how was she able to react to it?

KELLY: Well, initially, she -- you know, she was -- she was shocked. But then it was time for her to go to speech therapy, like right then. So she left the room. A couple of minutes later, she broke down in the middle of her -- in the middle of her class. It was -- it was tough.

MORGAN: Let's take another break, Mark, and when we come back, I want to talk to you about how this has all changed your relationship with Gabby. Because it must have had a profound effect, I would think, on almost everything that you've done together.



BONO, U2 VOCALIST: What's on your mind?

KELLY: Looking forward to coming home. Tell my wife I love her very much. She knows.


MORGAN: I think I've done some pretty good things in my life. Talking to Bono from space, giving a dedication to your wife as he dedicates "Beautiful Day" to her, I don't think your life gets much better than that, does it?


KELLY: No, Bono asked me to do that, and we coordinated it through NASA ahead of time. I thought it would take me about 15 minutes to film that. It took me two hours of the very little free time I get in space. But it was great and it worked out well.

MORGAN: Amazing moment.


MORGAN: I mean, totally surreal again.

KELLY: It was. I didn't think what I sent him was any good, but they managed to put it together into something useful.

MORGAN: Were you worried? Because Gabby is on the record of saying the only man she'd leave you for is Bono.

KELLY: Well, yes, that's -- now she's on the record.


KELLY: Never told anybody that before. You know? That's one of the things we decided we were going to do when we write the book, we'll just put everything in there.

MORGAN: Yes. It's a -- it's a tale, I guess, of a relationship before and after what happened. When did you first meet Gabby?

KELLY: Well, I met her about seven years ago on a trip to China, with a group of young, Young Leaders Forum. It was about 20 Americans, 20 Chinese. And she was a state senator at the time. And I was just getting ready to fly my second space shuttle flight. And we actually met in Vancouver on the way to China.

MORGAN: Do you remember the first moment?

KELLY: Yes, I remember seeing her for the first time. There were a few of us that were going to meet and have dinner there. So I knew that was the first moment that we met.

MORGAN: And when did you realize this was actually potentially the woman you wanted to spend the rest of your life with?

KELLY: Well, we didn't go on a date until -- I went -- after that trip, I went over a year without seeing her. And then after the second trip with this organization, then Gabby asked me to go visit a prison with her and that turned out to be the -- our first date.

MORGAN: Of all the hot dates, huh?

KELLY: Yes, a maximum security prison.

MORGAN: How do you fall in love with someone in a maximum security prison? Doesn't seem the most romantic of atmospheres.

KELLY: It wasn't very romantic.

MORGAN: What was it about her that you liked so much?

KELLY: Well, she laughs at my jokes. She is very smart, cares about people. Incredibly hard worker. I mean, just- - and cares about me. So I mean, she is really somebody very special.

MORGAN: Did you have some outrageous proposal? Were you in space for that? I mean, you had so many potential avenues you could have taken.

KELLY: No. I found out later in the process of writing our book that she had that expectation that I was going to propose to her from space and then I didn't.

MORGAN: If you're going out with an astronaut, you are thinking, you know, I need the space moment here. Because it's a great one to tell your friends, isn't it? He proposed to me from outer space.

KELLY: And I had had no idea. I was oblivious that she was expecting that. I didn't find out until years later.

MORGAN: So terrible letdown in the end.

KELLY: It was a big letdown, yeah.

MORGAN: It must be quite cool. There must be moments in your relationship early on when you say -- honestly, I would love to have dinner next Wednesday, but I'm actually going to be in space?

KELLY: Yes. Or you know, in Florida, training for this mission. Or she might be in Capital Hill. So our relationship was one with a lot of moving parts and different locations. And it was always a process to make it work.

MORGAN: You married in '07, I think? And what was the game plan for you as a couple then? Certainly, reading the book, it would seem that Gabby, you know, in the last year or so before this happened was thinking possibly of something new, getting out of politics, doing something different.

You were clearly thinking of coming to the end of your astronaut career. So pretty big moment for you as a couple in terms of what you were going to do next.

KELLY: I wouldn't say she was thinking about getting out of politics. She always said to me she wasn't going to be a life-long politician. But she had plans to run for either the Senate or possibly the -- to be governor of Arizona before this happened. But we did have plans to possibly have a child. If things would have progressed like we expected, Gabby would have been pregnant about a week to ten days after she was shot.

MORGAN: Is that right?

KELLY: Yes. Yeah. But January 8th interrupted that.

MORGAN: How is that situation now? Has it affected her ability to have a child?

KELLY: Well, we don't know. It's probably pretty obvious that right now we're not ready for that. You know, there's -- you know, there is -- we have a lot of things going on right now. And we've got to -- but that isn't out of the question for her, for us. You know, that could -- that will be something we'll deal with in the future.

MORGAN: It would be an incredible way to seal the recovery, wouldn't it?

KELLY: It would be. It would be. MORGAN: Something you just probably couldn't have thought of earlier this year.

KELLY: No, no. But she's doing -- she's doing well.

MORGAN: How is she right now?

KELLY: She's doing great. She still goes to rehab every single day, works very hard. We're going to spend -- we'll spend Thanksgiving in Tucson. And then the following week, she'll go back. And Monday morning she'll be back in physical, occupational and speech therapy every single day, until she gets to the point where she can make a decision about returning to office.

MORGAN: Thanksgiving will be emotional.

KELLY: It will be.

MORGAN: For your family.

KELLY: Yes, a lot to be thankful for. Yeah.

MORGAN: What would you be thanking, in particular?

KELLY: Well, that Gabby is alive, first of all. And that she's been able to recover. I mean, that we -- you know, we have -- you know, our lives are much different than they were before -- than it was before. Much, much different. But she's in a -- in a generally upbeat mood.

She is pretty positive. She is not angry. And you know, she's going to continue to work hard and she'll -- she'll come back stronger than ever. I'm convinced.

MORGAN: Take another break, Mark. I want the to come back and talk to you about the man that did this to your wife, what your feelings were at the time, whether they have changed over time.


MORGAN: A triumphant moment for Gabrielle Giffords. Only three months ago, she walked on to the floor to vote in favor of the debt ceiling, got a standing ovation from her peers. I am back with her husband, Mark Kelly. I was actually about to do a live show when somebody said, quick, turn on CNN, Gabby Giffords is there. She is walking. She is talking. She's -- and everyone is going crazy. Really special moment, that, wasn't it?

KELLY: It was. It was a tough decision for her to go back and vote. She had been following that issue for such a long time each day. And it looked like it might have been close and they might need her vote. And she made the decision to scramble there at the last minute, to get her up to Washington. And it was a pretty powerful moment.

MORGAN: What does she make of what's going on in Washington with all these deals collapsing? No one can get any kind of decision, apparently, made at all. It's almost like a sort of terrible collective paralysis over there.

KELLY: It is. She is obviously very disappointed, like many Americans are. Gabby was often ranked right -- they do these rankings. And I think on one occasion, one term, she was the member of Congress who was right in the middle, the exact moderate person. And she has this great ability to work across the aisle.

And I think we have seen over the years that where Congress has become more polarized, it's more difficult to get things done. So, like a lot of Americans, she is disappointed.

MORGAN: I mean, does she feel that the way through this to try and get the moderates to talk to each other -- to get them to do the deals? Because there seem to be so many people now, the extremities on both sides, who are totally intransigent.

KELLY: I think that's what we need. She certainly recognizes that. We need more moderates in Congress, more people that are closer to the middle, that have an easier time reaching across the aisle to the other party. I think it would make life better for most Americans if we had a Congress that could work together better.

MORGAN: Some interesting insights in the book into who, you know, walked to the plate and who didn't, really, in terms of political colleagues and people that she had worked for and against. Sarah Palin doesn't come out of this very well, I don't think, because there was a woman who at the time had been putting these cross hair things on her website and stuff, including Gabby.

And in her haste to take responsibility didn't even bother to pick the phone up, to write, do anything.

KELLY: Yeah, we were never contacted by her.

MORGAN: I find that extraordinary.

KELLY: Yeah, I was surprised too. You know, certainly the targets that she put over Gabby's and other people's districts, in our opinion, was not the right thing to do. She is not the first person to do that. And it hasn't always been Republicans that have done that.

MORGAN: I liked your line about it, which is if you had had the chance to talk to her, and you were expecting to, you weren't going to say that you were responsible. But you were going to say, you've been irresponsible.

KELLY: Yeah, that's my plan. You know, this was no surprise to us. Gabby even spoke about it before January 8th, during the election cycle, leading up to the election, in an interview. I think it might have been on MSNBC or some other -- another cable news network. She made is very clear that, hey, this is what's going on, and this could ultimately incite people to do violent things. So it wasn't a big surprise on January 8th that -- you know, that we -- you know, where we knew this map existed with the cross-hairs on it. Now, having said that, you know, Sarah Palin certainly is not responsible for what happened. But I think the angry rhetoric in an election year is not -- it's not helpful.

MORGAN: Because there are people out there who are clearly mentally unstable. And Jared Lee Loughner is a classic example of this, where he clearly was not normal when he did this. And in fact, if you look at what's going on with him now, the latest reports say he is responding to medication, for the first time he understands that he has killed people. He shows a bit of remorse and so on.

When you hear that about the man that did this, do you feel any sense of compassion towards him, or do you feel blind hatred? What is the reality?

KELLY: I would say neither. You know, I'm not compassionate towards him. At the same time, it's not helpful to me to feel hatred. And I know Gabby doesn't feel hatred towards him. You know, at times we're angry about the situation.

You're right. He's incredibly sick individual. You know, his schizophrenia was, you know, pretty extreme. I think the tragic thing in all this is that he didn't get any treatment. You know, there were people that certainly could recognize that he had a problem and could have done something to get him some treatment.

And he does respond well when he's on the medication, from what I understand. It's interesting, though, his defense team doesn't want him to be medicated, would prefer that he remain in the hospital, schizophrenic.

MORGAN: Because if he's mad, he'll get a different sentence.

KELLY: Well, yeah, or no sentence at all. Now, the problem with that is, when he's not medicated, he spends up to 50 hours at a time awake, pacing in his cell. That's not a real humane thing for -- you know, for anybody to have to deal with.

So I mean right now he's being medicated, and you know, from what I understand, he's somewhat remorseful for what happened.

MORGAN: Have any of his family made any attempt to contact you?

KELLY: No. No, they haven't.

MORGAN: Are you surprised at that?

KELLY: You know, I'm -- you know, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it. They're obviously in a very difficult situation. You know, being a parent myself, I mean, they certainly must feel devastated for what -- you know, for what their son did.

MORGAN: Who have you as a family been most touched by who did reach out to you? KELLY: As a family?


KELLY: Well, you know, Gabby's close, you know, friends in Congress, like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Kirsten Gillibrand, Adam Smith have been very, very supportive of her and for our family. And that's been really helpful. And our parents. You know, Gabby's parents have been -- they essentially moved to Houston and moved in, you know -- nearby the hospital for seven months, you know, completely changed their lives.

And you know, I couldn't have gone through this without their help.

MORGAN: Does Gabby have any thoughts towards the man that shot her?

KELLY: Well, you know, she doesn't spend a lot of time being angry about it. Early on, she was asked -- I asked her what she would like to see, you know, happen to him as a sentence. And it was very interesting that for a woman that had a difficult time with words at the time, that she was able to sum it up in one syllable, which was "rot," is what she said.

And I think she feels differently now. I mean, she understands he's very sick, and needs to be treated.

MORGAN: Let's take another break. I'll come back and ask you what everyone is asking. When can we expect -- can we expect to see Gabby's name back on the ballot.



GIFFORDS: It's frustrating, mentally hard, hard work. I'm trying, trying so hard to get better, regain what I have lost, trying to get back to work. Get back to work for Arizona. Back to work for the American people.


MORGAN: That's Gabby Giffords' voice in the audio recording of the final chapter of "Gabby, a Story of Courage and Hope." She wrote that chapter to send a personal message to all the people in this country and around the world who have given her so much love and support this year.

Gabby's husband, Mark Kelly, is back with me now. When you hear her speak like that, almost -- dare I tempt fate here, but sounds almost back to normal. Is that a fair reflection of how she is now in terms of being able to talk and so on?

KELLY: I'd say it is now. When she recorded that audio version, just like the previous 23 chapters that I recorded, it's somewhat edited. It's hard to -- if you've ever recorded an audio book, to read through it and get through it completely. So it's -- but she's starting to string some sentences together, and she continues to improve.

MORGAN: You said you won't make a decision as a family on whether she'll get back into frontline politics until, I think, it's May, when you have to -- the final point she has to put her name on the ballot. What's your gut instinct?

KELLY: So I don't know. Depends on which day. Some days I feel really good about it and positive. Other days I think, you know, this is where I think she could do the job. It's just -- you know, it's an incredibly exhausting, you know, position for anybody to be a member of Congress, the way Gabby did it.

I mean, it -- you know, traveling back and forth to your district, working very long hours, you know, so sometimes I think, you know, does she really need that. But, you know, she's going to decide on her own timetable. Some time before May, she'll make the decision.

I don't know. I really don't know. I think it's looking pretty good that she'll be in a position where she could make the decision to run for her seat again.

MORGAN: Have her politics changed?

KELLY: I don't think so. I don't think they've changed. I mean, she's always been -- you know, she's always been that person in the middle, the moderate, the person that can work the border issues with the Republicans, you know, that -- you know, that -- you know, she's just a very, you know, fair minded, moderate, easy-going person.

MORGAN: Gabby famously talked up the fact that she owned a Glock before. She was shot with a Glock. Has her view of gun control changed at all?

KELLY: You know, we haven't talked a lot about it. Gabby's always been the strong opponent -- or strong proponent of people able to -- you know, the right to bear arms and own a gun. She has one in her house in Tucson. But we haven't really got into the details of like recent gun legislation.

One thing she would always say is that she thinks that, you know, gun laws should be led by law enforcement, that we should take the lead, that the legislation should be -- members of Congress should take the lead from law enforcement. And so I don't expect that has changed much.

MORGAN: I suppose the opposite end of that argument will be one of the people that could be most effective now in tightening the gun laws in this country could be someone like Gabby Giffords, given what she's been through and given her previous view.

Jared Lee Loughner should never have had a gun, a man in that mental condition. There are clearly huge loopholes in the system that allow people like him, in his mental condition, to be in a possession of a firearm.

KELLY: Not only loopholes. I mean, Arizona barely has any gun laws at all. From what I understand, without a background check, you can buy a gun. You can carry it concealed. You can walk into a bar with it without -- and that's completely legal for anybody to do, including Jared Loughner to do that.

So while I say Gabby's a supporter of Second Amendment rights, that doesn't mean we shouldn't have restrictions on guns, and she recognizes that.

MORGAN: Take another break and come back and talk about the future, not just for Gabby, but for you and for your family.


MORGAN: Back with Mark Kelly. Mark, one of the, I think, happy things that's come out of this for you as a family is that before this, there was a certain coolness from your daughters towards Gabby, as the step daughters in the situation. And that's been altered for the good by what happened. Tell me about that.

KELLY: Well, Gabby used to remind me that this was the classic, you know, step mother/step daughter relationship that my kids would have with Gabby. And you know, Claudia and Claire were somewhat regretful when this happened, that they might not get the opportunity to repair that relationship. And they've really embraced that opportunity. And their relationship among the three of them is much different now than it was before January 8th.

MORGAN: That must be great for you.

KELLY: It is. It's good feeling, very positive. Yes, I'm not in the middle of it anymore, which is nice.

MORGAN: Finally, it's Thanksgiving tomorrow. What do you think if Gabby was here she would say to people that they should be thankful for, given this life-changing thing she's been through?

KELLY: Well, certainly, you know, in her case, with one event having such a serious impact on her health, I think she'd remind people to be thankful, you know, for your health and for your family and, you know, for being alive. She was within just millimeters of being killed that day, and just to be thankful for that.

MORGAN: Mark, she's a remarkable woman. You are a remarkable guy. And I salute you both. It's one of the most extraordinary books I think I've ever read. And I commend everyone to go and read this, Gabby, Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly, a story of courage and hope. And it is courage, hope and great inspiration. Thank you very much.

KELLY: Thank you, Piers.

MORGAN: That's all for us tonight, a really heart-warming interview on the even of Thanksgiving. "AC 360" starts now.