Speaker of the House John Boehner didn’t disappoint his reputation as an emotional – or more bluntly, teary-eyed – political leader Thursday, wiping wetness from his eyes during the pope’s high-profile broadcasted remarks from the podium of the legislative arms of Congress.
Minutes earlier, Boehner presented an emotionally stirred greeting to the pontiff in his private office on Capitol Hill.
A Politico reported, Boehner – who’s Catholic and who has attempted to get the pope to visit America’s halls of political power for decades – was obviously emotional during the private chat.
Boehner wept after shaking hands with the pope in the private meeting captured on live television at 9:20 a.m.
He said, somewhat awkwardly, the news outlet reported: “Your holiness, welcome, really glad that you’re here.”
He then invited the pope to sit, and the two engaged in small talk for a bit, beginning with Boehner’s discussion of his tie.
“I wanted to wear the old Catholic Consortium tie,” a blue one with little hands on it, Boehner said, Politico reported. “But my staff insisted I wear a green tie.”
And the pope’s response?
“Green is the color of hope,” he said.
Boehner quickly responded: “We’ll need a lot of hope today.”
Moments later, Boehner poured on the emotion even more, as he watched the pope mount the stairs to the podium in the House to deliver his prepared remarks. Boehner, during his introduction of Pope Francis, wiped his eyes and nose with a handkerchief. And later, as the pontiff was speaking, he took out his handkerchief once again and wiped his eyes.
As Boehner explained during a previous post: “When you grow up Catholic, you learn about the pope as a distant figure, closer to God than any of us. Too have him here, at our Capitol, among our people, is a once-in-a-lifetime moment. A glimpse of grace.”
He also said to CNN a couple weeks ago the pope’s visit, “for a Catholic boy like me … is big stuff.”
Politico, meanwhile, said Boehner had thought long and hard about the meeting with the pope in the days leading to the office chat, saying in a previous interview he expected the meeting would prove “pretty awesome,” and guessing he had “more to say to [the pope] than he has to say to me.”
Vice President Joe Biden seemed visibly moved by the pope’s presence on the House podium, too. But Boehner has the reputation of crying at choice moments – so much so that various media outlets, including the Guardian and the Atlantic, speculated in headlines about the pope’s visit if the speaker would cry.
In the past, Boehner’s actually choked on tears during speeches on Capitol Hill, particularly when he was expressing gratitude for winning the re-election to speaker, and during an interview on the Golf Channel. He cried when Gabby Giffords announced her resignation from Congress. In 2013, he cried during the unveiling of a Rosa Parks statue. Later that year, he cried during a ceremony honoring Winston Churchill. He once cried while listening to Irish music during a St. Patrick’s Day luncheon. He also admittedly became “a mess” when Ann Romney delivered her speech at the Republican National Convention in 2012.
After the pope’s speech, Boehner became emotional again while Francis spoke from the speaker’s balcony, addressing a huge crowd on the lawn of the Capitol Building, according to NBC News’ Luke Russert.