WOMEN
04/19/2017 04:19 pm ET Updated Apr 19, 2017

Bill O’Reilly Meets Pope Francis The Same Day Fox Fires Him

Even a handshake from the pope couldn't stop the inevitable.
Political commentator, Bill O'Reilly, during an interview on July 13, 2016.
NBC via Getty Images
Political commentator, Bill O'Reilly, during an interview on July 13, 2016.

Fox News has officially dropped Bill O’Reilly after sexual harassment allegations prompted protests outside network headquarters and a mass exodus from advertisers in recent days.

But amid the outcry, the accused predator is vacationing in Italy, where he briefly met Pope Francis on Wednesday.

O’Reilly sat in the VIP section during the pontiff’s weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square. The general audience is a free, public event that thousands of faithful attend every Wednesday. The VIP section where O’Reilly sat is situated beside the stage and is only accessible with special tickets distributed by the prefecture of the papal household.

Greg Burke, head of the Vatican press office and a former Fox correspondent, told Religion News Service he did “not facilitate” O’Reilly’s visit. But he did not specify who offered the former Fox host a VIP ticket.

James Martin, a Jesuit priest and consultor to the Vatican’s Secretariat of Communication, said the pope typically is not aware of who he will be meeting in the VIP line.

“Normally, someone at some department in the Vatican (and there are many) arranges it,” Martin said in an email to The Huffington Post. “And he basically shakes hands with anyone who happens to be put before him. It is not the same as an ‘audience,’ where the Pope knows whom he is meeting.”

A photographer for L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, snapped a photo of O’Reilly’s interaction with the pope.

Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly shakes hand with Pope Francis during the Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's squa
OSSERVATORE ROMANO/ REUTERS
Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly shakes hand with Pope Francis during the Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican, April 19, 2017.

O’Reilly is currently on a two-week vacation, which he claims had been planned well before the allegations surfaced.

Fox and O’Reilly have reportedly paid out a collective $13 million over the course of 15 years to settle sexual harassment claims filed by five different women. The allegations against O’Reilly included “verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances and phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating.”

Tuesday morning, The Hollywood Reporter reported that a new accuser came forward with allegations of harassment through the Fox News hotline. The woman, identified as an African-American clerical worker at the network, said through her attorney that O’Reilly would “leer at her,” and called her “hot chocolate.”

O’Reilly, who has described himself as “a practicing Roman Catholic,” has been critical of Pope Francis’s stance on immigration

During President Donald Trump’s campaign last year, reporters aboard the papal plane asked the pontiff what he thought of the Republican candidate’s proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. “A person who only thinks about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” the pontiff responded.

O’Reilly criticized Francis during his show, saying: “I think I could persuade the pope that providing protection and enforcing settled law is certainly not un-Christian.”

Gabriela Landazuri contributed to this reporting.

HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

PHOTO GALLERY
Pope's Best Instagram Moments
CONVERSATIONS