While Ariana Grande was being slammed across social media for what many (including Smokey Robinson) called her “inappropriate” choice of dress for Aretha Franklin’s funeral, the bishop who officiated the service was also receiving backlash about how he touched her onstage.
Bishop Charles H. Ellis III has apologized for grabbing Grande inappropriately during a hug after she performed “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” As reported by nola.com, images of the moment show his hand holding her well above her waist, with his fingers pressing against one side of her chest.
Fans of the former Nickelodeon TV star posted close-up pics of the moment on Twitter, tagging it #RespectAriana. Viewers also teased Ellis online for dropping an insensitive joke about her name.
The preacher addressed the controversy in an interview with The Associated Press at the cemetery where the Queen of Soul was interred late Friday.
“It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast. … I don’t know I guess I put my arm around her,” he said. “Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize.”
Ellis noted that he hugged all the performers during Friday’s eight-hour service.
“I hug all the female artists and the male artists,” he stated. “Everybody that was up, I shook their hands and hugged them. That’s what we are all about in the church. We are all about love.”
Adding: “The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin.”
He also apologized to Grande, her fans and Hispanic community for joking that when he read her name on the program, he thought it was a new item on the Taco Bell menu.
“I personally and sincerely apologize to Ariana and to her fans and to the whole Hispanic community,” he 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.”