Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, who led Aretha Franklin’s funeral, apologized Friday to singer Ariana Grande for how he touched her onstage and joked about her name.
After Grande performed the Franklin classic “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” Ellis greeted and hugged her. For an extended period of time, he held her well above her waist with his hand tightly pressed on one side of her chest.
The preacher later apologized at the cemetery where Franklin was interred while he was interviewed by the Associated Press.
“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 news outlet.
Ellis noted that he hugged every performer during the eight-hour service Friday at his church, the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Michigan. Franklin, long known as the "Queen of Soul," died at her home in Detroit on Aug. 16 at age 76.
“I hugged all the female artists and the male artists,” Ellis said. “Everybody that was up, I shook their hands and hugged them. And that’s what we’re all about in the church. We’re about love. And again, maybe I crossed a border or maybe I was too friendly or familiar, but again, I apologize.”
He added: “The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin.”
Images of the moment appeared across Twitter, and many people tagged it #RespectAriana.
What did he say about her name?
Ellis also apologized for a joke he made about Grande’s name.
After Ellis greeted Grande, he told the singer his 28-year-old daughter told him he's old. He then joked that when he first saw Grande's name on the program and he thought it might be a new item on the Taco Bell menu.
"When you're doing a program for nine hours, you try to keep it lively. You try to make some funny references and what have you," he said, adding, "I love everybody."
Ellis’ touching of Grande took center stage after she was criticized for wearing a short dress for the performance. Many social media users wrote that they thought her dress was too short for church.
On a separate matter, Twitter was hit with a flurry of comments saying former president Bill Clinton ogled the 25-year-old Grande as she performed at the funeral. Photos and video show Clinton intently watching and smiling and with his mouth open, as if in astonishment.
Bill and Hillary Clinton both had pictures taken with the singer following the performance.