Bishop Charles Ellis III made headlines at Aretha Franklin’s funeral when he admitted he thought Ariana Grande’s name was a menu item at Taco Bell, but it was his physical onstage interaction with the pop star for which he is apologizing.
Twitter was outraged after photos and zoomed-in video from the service held on Friday, August 31, showed the preacher putting his arm around Grande with his hand pressed into the side of her breast following her performance of “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman.”
The incident prompted new hashtags, #RespectAriana and #RespectArianaandAllWomen, to go viral.
Ellis spoke out about the incident in an interview with the Associated Press late Friday, saying that any inappropriate contact was unintentional. “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 told the outlet. “Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize.”
He continued on to say that he hugged all of the day’s performers [regardless of sex] — both male and female. “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. The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin,” he said.
Ellis also apologized to Grande — and to the Hispanic community — for his joke about her name. “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.”
Grande has yet to respond.