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Sinead O'Conner Rips up Picture of Pope on Live TV Protesting Child abuse, 1992

Updated: May 10, 2023

In 1992, Sinead O'Connor ripped up a picture of the Pope on live television, in protest of the rampant child sexual abuse the Catholic Church was actively covering up. In the weeks that followed, Joe Pesci said he wanted to give her "such a smack," Frank Sinatra said he wanted to "kick her ass," and millionaire producer Jonathan King said she "needed a spanking." She was 26.

Ten days later, she was scheduled to perform at Madison Square Gardens as part of a celebration of Bob Dylan. As soon as she reached the microphone, the audience began loudly booing her, seemingly in unison. She talked later about how awful the sound was, and how she thought she would be sick.

The organizers tasked Kris Kristofferson with removing O'Connor from the stage. He instead went out and put his arm around her and checked in on her and stayed until she'd steadied herself and was ready to perform. Sinead replaced the Bob Dylan song she was supposed to sing with Bob Marley's 'War', changing some of the lyrics to be about child abuse.

Kristofferson grabbed her in a bear hug as she came off stage and kissed her cheek. In the video, you can see that she pulls away at one point and throws up. He wraps her back in his arms and holds her tight.

About the incident, he says:

"Sinead had just recently on Saturday Night Live torn up a picture of the Pope, in a gesture that I thought was very misunderstood. And she came out and got booed. They told me to go get her off the stage and I said 'I'm not about to do that'. I went out and I said 'Don't let the bastards get you down'. She said 'I'm not down' and she sang. It was very courageous. It just seemed wrong to me, booing that little girl out there. But she's always had courage."


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