Bishop says sorry after 'groping' singer

Singer Ariana Grande with Bishop Charles Ellis III after performing at Aretha Franklin's funeral at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit last Friday. The bishop later also apologised for joking about her name.
Singer Ariana Grande with Bishop Charles Ellis III after performing at Aretha Franklin's funeral at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit last Friday. The bishop later also apologised for joking about her name.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

DETROIT • The bishop who led the funeral service for the late singing sensation Aretha Franklin last Friday caused a furore for allegedly touching pop princess Ariana Grande inappropriately on stage.

Images showed Bishop Charles Ellis III putting his arm around Grande after her rendition of Franklin's 1967 hit (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman at the funeral, with his fingers touching the right side of her chest.

Grande, 25, who was wearing a little black dress, appeared uncomfortable.

"I think every woman can look at Ariana Grande's face and body language and viscerally feel what she's feeling," New York Times writer Maggie Astor tweeted.

"The tension. The nervous laughter. Not wanting to make a scene or make him angry. Every woman knows this feeling."

The online flak later drew an apology from Bishop Ellis, who told 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," he said.

"Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologise," he said, adding that he hugs "all the female artists and the male artists".

"The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin."

The New York Times reported that as Grande was leaving the stage after her performance, she was called back by Bishop Ellis, who thanked her and confessed he was less than familiar with her work.

"When I saw Ariana Grande at the programme, I thought that was a new something at Taco Bell," he joked, but apologised later for the bad humour.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 02, 2018, with the headline 'Bishop says sorry after 'groping' singer'. Print Edition | Subscribe