Giffords's husband scolds Boehner for not visiting wounded lawmaker

In a new book, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s (D-Ariz.) husband scolds House Speaker John Boehner for failing to visit his wounded wife while she was recovering from injuries sustained in a shooting.

In his and his wife’s new volume, Mark Kelly writes that Boehner (R-Ohio) didn’t take an opportunity to visit Giffords when he was in Houston for a basketball game and added that all they heard from the Speaker after the shooting came in the form of “a simple get-well card.”

Kelly noted that in April, Boehner was in Houston for the NCAA Final Four Tournament while Giffords was at a rehabilitation center there following the Jan. 8 attempt on her life.

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“Considering that she was a member of Congress and he was the highest-ranking member, we thought he’d ask to visit Gabby or at least give a call to see how she was doing,” Kelly writes in Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope. “Our only contact with him had been a simple get-well card he’d sent a few days after Gabby was injured.”

But they didn’t hear from the Speaker.

Kelly writes that he told Giffords “maybe she scared him off” and reminded her of the time the couple saw Boehner in a Washington, D.C., restaurant before the 2010 election.

They spotted the then-minority leader at another table and on their way out, according to Kelly’s account, Giffords stopped to greet Boehner, telling him with “a big smile on her face”: “You stay out of my district. OK. Remember. Stay out of my district.”

Giffords “was trying to be funny but she was also giving him notice,” Kelly recounts, noting Boehner “had an uncomfortable look on his face” as Giffords spoke.

Giffords was in a tough reelection contest in 2010 but won by around 4,000 votes. She has not announced her 2012 election plans but is continuing with the physical therapy treatments required as a result of her head wound.

Not all the mentions of Boehner are critical, however. 

Kelly notes when Giffords returned to Congress in August to vote on legislation raising the debt ceiling, she was greeted by Boehner, who welcomed her back — which she responded to by hugging him.

A GOP leadership aide defended the Speaker, saying Boehner contacted Giffords’s chief of staff within hours of the shooting.  The aide added that Boehner’s staff has been in contact with Giffords’s staff throughout the year — and Giffords’s staff have expressed appreciation for the Speaker’s efforts.

Boehner was criticized shortly after the shootings, when he didn’t attend a memorial service in Tucson, Ariz.

His office explained at the time that the Speaker had been at a bipartisan prayer service for the victims in the Capitol Visitor Center earlier that day and would have had to miss it in order to fly to Tucson. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did miss the Capitol Hill service so she could catch a flight to Arizona for the memorial. Boehner’s office noted that if he also missed it, leaders of both parties would have been absent. 

Meanwhile, Boehner’s office has taken over efforts to honor Gabriel Zimmerman, the Giffords staffer who was killed in the shootings. Representatives from Boehner’s staff attended a memorial service for Zimmerman in Tucson, Ariz., shortly after the shootings.

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Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) had proposed a resolution that would name a room in the Visitor Center after Zimmerman, the first congressional aide killed in the line of duty. But that resolution has languished in committee, leading to complaints from the congresswoman, who is a close friend of Giffords’s.

But the Speaker’s office said Boehner is working on efforts to honor Zimmerman.

“The Speaker and his staff have been in close contact with Rep. Giffords’s staff throughout this difficult ordeal, and the Speaker met with Mr. Kelly in recent weeks about an appropriate memorial for slain staffer Gabe Zimmerman in the Capitol,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Tuesday.

Giffords’s office, asked to comment for the article, praised Boehner’s efforts to honor Zimmerman.

“Speaker Boehner has committed to working inclusively to honor our fallen colleague, Gabe Zimmerman, in such a way that recognizes his contributions and sacrifice and includes the preferences of the loved ones he left behind. We’re constructively working with the Speaker and his staff to make this happen quickly and appropriately,” a spokeswoman said.

Kelly and Giffords’s book was released Tuesday.


— Debbie Siegelbaum contributed.

— This story was last updated at 8:32 p.m.

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