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Bishop at Aretha Service Apologizes to Ariana

Critics accuse Charles Ellis of a public grope, but he says it was innocent
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 1, 2018 7:16 AM CDT
Bishop Charles H. Ellis, III, right, speaks with Ariana Grande after she performed during the funeral service for Aretha Franklin.   (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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(Newser) – The bishop who officiated Aretha Franklin's funeral apologized Friday to Ariana Grande for how he touched her onstage and a joke he made about her name, per the AP. Bishop Charles H. Ellis III led Franklin's funeral and awkwardly greeted Grande on stage after she performed "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." Images of the moment showed Ellis' hand holding Grande well above her waist, with his fingers pressing against one side of her chest. "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 said. "Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize." Many people posted close-up images of the moment on Twitter, tagging it #RespectAriana.

Ellis also apologized to Grande, her fans, and the Hispanic community for making a joke about seeing her name on the program and thinking it was a new item on the Taco Bell menu. "I personally and sincerely apologize to Ariana and to her fans and to the whole Hispanic community," Ellis said. "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' touching of Grande overshadowed some criticism earlier in the ceremony the short dress Grande wore for her performance. Numerous people posted criticisms online that the dress was too short for church. Grande's representative did not return an email message seeking comment.

(Read more Aretha Franklin stories.)

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