Aretha Franklin funeral service bishop accused of 'groping' Ariana Grande issues an apology
The bishop who led the service at Aretha Franklin's funeral also made an inappropriate and possibly racist joke about Ariana's name, leading to further uproar.
Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, who was in charge of leading Aretha Franklin's funeral, has issued an apology for how he touched Ariana Grande on stage after her performance. A video of the moment the bishop wrapped his arm around the 25-year-old singer after her rendition of Franklin's (You Make Me Feel Like) 'A Natural Woman' went viral on social media. His hand appeared to touch the side of Grande's breast and resulted in the birth of the #RespectAriana hashtag on Twitter. Several netizens expressed their outrage at the behavior, and soon, over 90,000 tweets had condemned the bishop's actions.
One user wrote, "If this happened to a pop star [sic] in front of millions of people just imagine what this pig does [sic] in private to no famous girls." Another similarly wrote, "This is about respecting women. F*** y'all trying to justify this mess by going for what she wore. This clown is the kind you want to keep your daughters & wives away from in the church. We will never know how many women he has done this to."
After the heated reaction from all quarters, the bishop came out and apologized for his actions. "It would never be my intention to touch any woman's breast," he said. "I don't know, I guess I put my arm around her. Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize."
He also said he hugged all the performers during Friday's seven-hour service. "I hug all the female and the male artists," he explained. "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 be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin."
However, that was not the only controversy that the bishop attracted. He also made an inappropriate and possibly racist joke about the singer's name. He had claimed during the ceremony that on seeing her Ariana's name in the programme, he thought it was a new item on the menu at Taco Bell.
In an apology directed at Ariana, her fans, and the Hispanic community, he said, "I personally and sincerely apologize to Ariana and her fans and to the whole Hispanic community. When you're doing a programme for nine hours you try to keep it lively, you try to insert some jokes here and there." The 'Dangerous Woman' hitmaker seemed to be at the center of another debate as well: one that had to do with her dress. She had attracted some criticism in social media for how short it was, though that was soon overshadowed by the images of various men at the service appearing to ogle at her. A picture of Bill Clinton looking on gleefully at the singer's behind went viral, with many damning the former president.
Ariana has not yet responded to any of these controversies or the bishop's apology.