The bishop who led Aretha Franklin’s funeral has publicly apologized to Ariana Grande for getting handsy with the singer, and making a joke about her name.
Bishop Charles H. Ellis III was criticized on social media for inappropriately touching the pop star after she performed (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman at Franklin’s homegoing on Friday in Detroit.
While standing in front of a worldwide television audience, Ellis wrapped an arm around Grande and pulled her close to him. The songstress appeared uncomfortable as the preacher pressed a hand into her side near one of her breasts.
After the nearly eight-hour service concluded, Ellis apologized in an interview with The Associated Press.
“It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast… I don’t know, I guess I put my arm around her,” Ellis said. “Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize.”
He added that he hugged all of the performers.
“Everybody that was up, I shook their hands and hugged them,” he said. “That’s what we are all about in the church. We are all about love.”
The bishop’s apology followed a backlash on social media.
“I’m really sorry you had to go thru that @ArianaGrande that groping was beyond blatant and we could all see and feel your discomfort,” tweeted television host Claudia Jordan.
— Claudia Jordan (@claudiajordan) September 1, 2018
Late-night host Trevor Noah added: “What was up with that pastors hand?”
What was up with that pastors hand? pic.twitter.com/M8Ypgm7fQB
— Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) August 31, 2018
“I don’t care what you think about Ariana Grande, her music or her dress. This is wrong,” tweeted feminist author Mona Eltahawy. “That bishop’s hand should not be on her breast.”
I don’t care what you think about Ariana Grande, her music or her dress. This is wrong. That bishop’s hand should not be on her breast: I just saw this because I’ve been working and not watching pic.twitter.com/ixVhgYBJTN
— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) September 1, 2018
Ellis also apologized to Grande and the Hispanic community for saying her name sounded like an item on the Taco Bell menu.
“I personally and sincerely apologize to Ariana and to her fans and to the whole Hispanic community,” Ellis said. “When you’re doing a program for nine hours you try to keep it lively, you try to insert some jokes here and there.”
The bishop’s actions overshadowed criticism Grande received for wearing a dress that some social media users thought was too short for church.