The bishop who served as the emcee at Aretha Franklin‘s funeral apologized to Ariana Grande following accusations that he groped the singer onstage as well as likened the singer to a Taco Bell menu item.
Following Grande’s performance of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” at Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple Friday, Bishop Charles H. Ellis III hugged the singer and brought her to the main podium; video from the service showed Ellis’ hand holding Grande above her waist, with his fingers pressing against the right side of her chest.
“It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast. Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar. But again, I apologize,” Ellis III told the Associated Press.
“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.”
What was up with that pastors hand? pic.twitter.com/M8Ypgm7fQB
— Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) August 31, 2018
The bishop added: “The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin.”
Ellis also apologized for a joke he made immediately following Grande’s performance, when he quipped to the over 4,000 people in attendance, “When I saw Ariana Grande on the program, I thought that was a new something at Taco Bell.”
“I personally and sincerely apologize to Ariana and to her fans and to the whole Hispanic community,” Ellis told the AP. “When you’re doing a program for nine hours you try to keep it lively, you try to insert some jokes here and there.”
Ellis wasn’t the only religious figure to draw controversy for their actions at the Franklin funeral: Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. has come under fire for the divisive, 45-minute eulogy that he delivered prior to Stevie Wonder’s performance.