It was one of the most touching moments of last night's Tucson memorial service. In a few sentences that were not part of the evening's prepared remarks, the president told the incredible story of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords opening her eyes for the "first time" shortly after he visited her on Wednesday. It's a story that prompted raucous applause. And it's a story that grabbed headlines Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
On Thursday, two the people who were at Giffords's bedside during that moment -- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) -- spoke to Fox News about exactly what happened:
The pair also appeared on "Good Morning America":
Jake Tapper of ABC News talked with the congresswomen while they were traveling back to Washington yesterday. A partial transcript of that conversation is below:
And we just were so excited, so we were telling her how proud we were of her and how she was inspiring the whole nation with her courage and with her strength. And then Debbie and I started joking about all the things we were going to do after she got better. And we were holding her hand and she was responding to our hand-holding. She was rubbing our hands and gripping our hands so we could -- she could really -- we knew she could hear and understand what we were saying and she moved her leg, and so we knew she was responding. And the more we joked about what we were going to do, she started to open her eyes literally.
And then you have to recognize, her eyes hadn’t opened -- we didn’t know that -- and so she started to struggle. And one of her eyes is covered with a bandage because it was damaged in the gunfire. So her eye is flickering. And Mark sees this and gets extremely excited. And we didn’t -- I didn’t know what that meant. And so he said, Gabby, open your eyes, open your eyes. And he’s really urging her forward. And the doctor is like perking up and everyone is coming around the bed. And she’s struggling and she’s struggling and it’s a good -- we couldn’t figure it out, maybe 30 seconds, where she’s really trying to get her eyes open, like doing this, this, this.
And then she finally opens her eyes and you could she was like desperately trying to focus and it took enormous strength from her. And Mark could just -- can’t believe it. I mean, he’s so happy. And we’re crying because we’re witnessing something that we never imagined would happen in front of us.
REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Exactly. The only way I could describe the feeling that we had, that I had, was other than the birth of my kids, this was the most incredible feeling, to see literally your -- one of your closest friends just struggle to come back to you, to come back to her family, to come back to her friends. I mean, we know how strong Gabby is and you could see all the strength pouring out of her to touch her husband –
SENATOR GILLIBRAND: It was raw courage. It was raw strength. It was so beautiful and so moving. And, I mean, as I said, we were in tears. We couldn’t believe our eyes how courageous she was and how much she wanted to talk to us, that she wanted to -- she wanted us to know that she was with us a hundred percent and understood everything we were saying and appreciated it.
Some on the internet have suggested that the president's -- and the congresswomen's -- account is inaccurate. They point to an article in a local Tucson paper that on Sunday reported Giffords had opened her eyes. That article has since been removed, but a cached version exists. Still, there are other articles that hint at an earlier "eye-opening" event (here and here).
The Blaze has reviewed the news conference referenced by the now-removed article, and from what we can tell, the doctor did not blatantly say that Giffords had opened her eyes. Therefore, it could be the news article was removed for accuracy reasons. From what we can tell, then, reports that Obama fibbed may not be accurate.