Bishop Apologizes for Getting Grabby with Pop Star Ariana Grande at Aretha Franklin Funeral

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. Franklin, 76, died at her home in Detroit on August 16. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Detroit Bishop who got grabby with pop singer Ariana Grande onstage during Aretha Franklin’s funeral has apologized for both grabbing the woman and saying that her name sounds like a meal at Taco Bell.

Bishop Charles H. Ellis III was first called on the carpet for reaching his arm around the pop star and drawing her tight against himself. Some accused the preacher of trying to fondle her. But the bishop also suffered other barbs from those upset about his “racist” comment about her name, the Associated Press reported:

The 25-year-old singer had finished a rendition of the Queen of Soul’s hit, “You Make Me Feel like a Natural Woman,” and Ellis bounded onto the stage to banter with her.

The preacher has since publicly apologized for being so handsy with the singer.

“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 told the AP. “Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize.”

Still, Ellis defended himself by saying he does that to everyone.

“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, however, “The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin.”

In the video, Grande is clearly uncomfortable when Ellis pulls her close. Throughout his comments, she leans heavily in the opposite direction:

Ellis also apologized for his joke that the singer’s Hispanic-like name sounded like a meal at Taco Bell.

“I personally and sincerely apologize to Ariana and to her fans and to the whole Hispanic community,” Ellis insisted. “When you’re doing a program for nine hours you try to keep it lively, you try to insert some jokes here and there.”

For her part, the singer did not make any statements about the encounter with Ellis. But Grande herself came in for some criticism when viewers of the funeral found her tiny dress too short and inappropriate for a funeral:

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.


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