Bishop gropes Ariana Grande, jokes about her name at Aretha Franklin's funeral; apologises later

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Sep 03, 2018, 08.24 AM(IST)

Ariana Grande was groped on stage at the Aretha Franklin funeral by the bishop who was officiating the ceremony. Photograph:( Twitter )

A senior pastor who was officiating singer Aretha Franklin's funeral on Friday was accused of groping singer Ariana Grande on stage during the ceremony. Bishop Charles H Ellis III has now issued an apology. The bishop was also accused of making a joke about the singer's name during the ceremony. 

On Friday, Ellis led Franklin's funeral and awkwardly greeted Grande on stage after she performed '(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.' Images of the moment showed Ellis' hand holding Grande well above her waist, with his fingers pressing against one side of her chest. Many on Twitter called out his behaviour and criticised him. 

The preacher apologised in an interview with The Associated Press at the cemetery where Franklin 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," Ellis said. "Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize." He said he hugged all the performers during Friday's eight-hour service.

"I hug all the female artists and the male artists," Ellis said. "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." 

He added: "The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin." Many people posted close-up images of the moment on Twitter, tagging it #RespectAriana.

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Ellis also apologized to Grande, her fans and Hispanic community for making a joke about seeing her name on the program and thinking 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," 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 incident overshadowed criticism for Grande for wearing a short dress for the occasion. Many termed her outfit inappropriate for the church. 

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Grande is yet to comment on the issue. 

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