Mark Kelly, a top U.S. astronaut set to command the Space Shuttle Endeavour on its final mission this spring, talked about the Loughners in an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, being broadcast today. Loughner has been charged with murder in the Jan. 8 shooting spree that apparently targeted Giffords, a three-term Democrat, as she met with constituents in a Tucson, Ariz., parking lot. Six other people died, and Giffords remains in serious condition with a bullet wound to the head.
"I don't think it's their fault. It's not the parents' fault," Kelly told ABC. "You know, I'd like to think I'm a person that's, you know, somewhat forgiving. And, I mean, they've got to be hurting in this situation as much as anybody."
Kelly noted that Giffords has two stepdaughters -- his own children from a previous relationship -- and said he understands what it's like to be a parent. "I'm sure they love their son," he said. "They must be distraught over this, as all of us are."
Asked whether he'd be willing to meet the Loughners, Kelly responded, "I'd probably see them."
In excerpts of the interview released Monday and today, Kelly described how his wife spent 10 minutes giving him a neck massage from her hospital bed. He said he was amazed that "she stuck her hand up on the side of my face" to give him a neck rub.
"It's so typical of her that no matter how bad the situation might be for her, you know, she's looking out for other people," he said.
"I'm pretty sure she wouldn't do that to somebody else," Kelly said, according to ABC. "And she's looking me in the eye."
Kelly said he also believes his wife knows who he is because she's been playing with his wedding ring as he holds her hand at her bedside.
"She'll move it up and down my finger. She'll take it off. She'll put it on her own finger," Kelly told ABC. "She'll move it to her thumb, and then she can put it back on my finger.
"The reason why I know that that means she recognizes me is because she's done that before this accident. She does that all the time," he said.
Doctors said the news that Giffords was able to give her husband a neck rub is a good sign of her recovery. Over the weekend, Giffords, 40, underwent surgery to remove bone fragments and reconstruct her fractured eye socket. On Monday, her doctors told a news conference they were pleased with how the operation went.
"I'm happy to say that within a few hours of the surgery, she was waking up, and through the weekend she came back to the same baseline she had been before the surgery -- that same level of interaction she's having been having with us," Dr. Michael Lemole, chief of neurosurgery at University Medical Center, told reporters. "That's all very good."
Asked when Giffords might be well enough to transfer out of the hospital and into a rehabilitation center, Lemole said it could be as soon as "days to weeks," CNN reported.
Kelly also recalled getting first word that his wife had been shot. One of his wife's staff members called him with the news in Houston, just 30 minutes after Kelly had spoken with Giffords.
"I picked up the phone and she says, 'I don't know how to tell you about this, but I just received a call ... and Gabby's been shot,'" Kelly told ABC. "I said, 'Well, that's, you know, that's not possible. Are you sure?'"
In disbelief, he checked the phone's call history to make sure he hadn't imagined the call. He then phoned relatives and scrambled to get to Giffords.
In the days since the shooting, doctors have been cautiously optimistic about Giffords' speed of recovery, but they still don't know whether she has permanent brain or nerve damage. While relatives and friends have said the congresswoman is able to open her eyes and smile at them, doctors say they're not sure whether she can actually see out of both eyes.
"We're all very optimistic, so we could be wrong, but we all want to see the best, and sometimes we see what we want to see," trauma surgeon Dr. Randall Friese told CNN. "But if he [Kelly] says she's smiling, I buy it."