Bishop Apologizes for Touching Ariana Grande at Aretha Franklin's Funeral

Bishop Charles H. Ellis III had led the funeral and greeted Grande after her performance, and the encounter went viral

By Corinne Heller Sep 01, 2018 2:57 PMTags
Watch: Bishop Apologizes for Touching Ariana Grande at Aretha's Funeral

The bishop who officiated Aretha Franklin's funeral has apologized to Ariana Grande for how he touched her onstage, which had sparked an online backlash.

The 25-year-old singer performed the Queen of Soul's hit "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" at the service, which was live-streamed. Bishop Charles H. Ellis III had led the funeral and greeted Grande after her performance, placing his hand against one side of her breast. Videos and images of the moment went viral and drew criticism.

"I don't care what you think about Ariana Grande, her music or her dress," tweeted feminist author, journalist and public speaker Mona Eltahawy, referring to a separate backlash over the singer's mini dress. "This is wrong. That bishop's hand should not be on her breast."

Following the backlash, the preacher later told the Associated Press in an interview, according to USA Today and other outlets, "It would never be my intention to touch any woman's breast."
Aretha Franklin Funeral: Farewell to The Queen of Soul
Scott Olson/Getty Images
"I don't know, I guess I put my arm around her," Ellis continued. "Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize...I hug all the female artists and the male artists. 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."

After Grande's performance, the bishop had said onstage, "I've got to apologize because I have to brush up. My 28-year-old daughter tells me, 'Dad! You are old at 60...When I saw Ariana Grande on the program, I thought that was a new something at Taco Bell." Grande had laughed at his comment and hugged him.

"I personally and sincerely apologize to Ariana and to her fans and to the whole Hispanic community," Ellis later said in his interview. "When you're doing a program for nine hours you try to keep it lively, you try to insert some jokes here and there."