In this file photo taken on August 31, 2018 Bishop Charles Ellis chats with Ariana Grande after her performance at the funeral for Aretha Franklin at the Greater Grace Temple on August 31, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, who officiated the funeral of Aretha Franklin, has apologized for appearing to grope singer Ariana Grande on stage, sparking widespread outrage. (AFP/Angela Weiss)
The bishop who officiated the funeral of Aretha Franklin has apologized for appearing to grope singer Ariana Grande on stage, sparking widespread outrage.
The 25-year-old pop star sang the Aretha Franklin classic "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," one of a series of tributes by musicians to America's "Queen of Soul" at her marathon funeral attended by presidents, stars and music royalty.
After her performance, she was congratulated by Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, who wrapped his arm around her, his hand high above her waist and his fingers pressed against her chest.
If it would be inappropriate for even a newly-wed married couple to touch each other like that on TV, maybe, just maybe, a pastor shouldn't be touching a woman he doesn't know like that?— Femi (@Femi_Sorry) September 1, 2018
&%$£ Painful to watch.🤢🤮 #RespectArianapic.twitter.com/qv6eOZHPp0
"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 in comments to US media confirmed to AFP on Saturday.
"Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar, but again, I apologize."
The moment drew fierce criticism online.
"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," wrote television host Claudia Jordan.
Ellis also apologized for a joke he made to Grande about her name: "When I saw Ariana Grande on the program, I thought that was a new something at Taco Bell," he said, referring to a popular Mexican fast-food chain.
"I personally and sincerely apologize to Ariana and to her fans and to the whole Hispanic community," Ellis said.
Grande is of Italian descent.