Fans who tuned into Aretha Franklin’s funeral yesterday had a field day with Bishop Charles H. Ellis III who led the ceremony. Many viewers had pointed out that Ellis touched Ariana’s breast inappropriately when he greeted her on stage after she performed “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
“It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast,” the pastor, Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, told The Associated Press. “Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize.”
Ms. Grande was one of several performers at the funeral at the Greater Grace Temple who was paying tribute to the “Queen of Soul.” She had just finished singing one of Ms. Franklin’s hit songs, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” but as she began to leave the stage, Ms. Grande was called back by the bishop.
He thanked her and joked about how he was unaware of Ms. Grande’s work.
“When I saw Ariana Grande at the program, I thought that was a new something at Taco Bell,” he said, his arm around her waist as his fingers remained pressed into the right side of her chest for more than 30 seconds. Ms. Grande laughed. (Her fourth album, “Sweetener,” has topped the Billboard charts three weeks in a row.)
“Girl, let me give you all your respect,” he said, pulling her in for a hug.
“Did you all enjoy this icon?” he asked the crowd, referring to Ms. Grande’s performance. “She’s an icon herself.”
For many, there was no question what had just happened.
“I don’t care what you think about Ariana Grande, her music or her dress. This is wrong. That bishop’s hand should not be on her breast,” the author Mona Eltahawy wrote on Twitter, her post accompanied by a video of the episode that has been viewed more than two million times.
Viewers, dismayed by both the pastor’s joke and his embrace, responded en masse on Twitter with the hashtag #RespectAriana, which started trending.
Neither the pastor nor Ms. Grande’s representatives immediately responded to a request for comment on Saturday, but Bishop Ellis’s official Twitter account posted an interview he conducted with The A.P. at the cemetery where Franklin was interred.
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