Aretha Franklin funeral bishop apologizes to Ariane Grande for name joke, inappropriate touching

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Bishop Charles Ellis III had dad jokes for Ariana Grande after her performance at Aretha Franklin's funeral. USA TODAY

The bishop who officiated Aretha Franklin’s funeral, Charles H. Ellis III, apologized Friday to Ariana Grande for how he touched her onstage and a joke he made about her name.

Accompanied by her fiance Pete Davidson, Grande traveled to Detroit to attend the ceremony and perform one of Franklin's signature hits, "(You Make Me Feel Like) "A Natural Woman," which she previously sang on the "Tonight Show" on Aug. 16 shortly after Franklin's death.

After Grande's performance, Ellis , the officiant leading the service, brought the singer to the podium, where he cracked a joke about her name sounding like a Taco Bell menu item and awkwardly greeted her on stage.

Images of the moment showed Ellis’ hand holding Grande well above her waist, with his fingers pressing against one side of her chest.

The preacher apologized in an interview with The Associated Press at the cemetery where Franklin was interred late Friday.

"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, adding: "Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize."

He added: “The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin.”

Many people posted close-up images of the moment on Twitter, tagging it #RespectAriana.

Ellis also apologized to Grande, her fans and Hispanic community for joking 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's fiery rendition even moved her ex-boyfriend, Big Sean. The rapper was also in attendance at the funeral and was spotted swaying to Grande's singing and giving her a standing ovation when she finished. 

  

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Ariana Grande performs ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ and Faith Hill sings "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" at Franklin's funeral. (Aug. 31) AP

After her performance, Grande laughed at Ellis' comment, hugged him and told the crowd, "I love you, Aretha" before leaving the podium.

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Some Twitter users were up in arms over Grande's funeral attire, criticizing the singer for wearing a minidress to church. 

"Ariana Grande baby that’s not what you wear to a funeral," one user tweeted, with someone else comparing her outfit to "how you look when you come straight to church after being out at the club."

Grande also had her defenders, with some fans arguing in favor of her sartorial choices.

"If Ariana Grande's dress makes anyone uncomfortable, I'd suggest you check that demon within yourself and not blame that young lady for YOUR perverted mind and or the perverted minds of others whom for whatever complicit reason you choose not to check instead," read one pro-Grande tweet.

Twitter also had plenty of jokes about Davidson's presence at the funeral, with people puzzling over why, besides being Grande's plus-one to the event, he got an invitation in the first place.

"Ok we all have limits and my limit is Pete Davidson sitting VIP at Aretha Franklin’s funeral," one user tweeted. Another wondered, "Can you imagine being at #ArethaHomegoing...looking over and seeing Pete Davidson?"

But there was no doubt on social media that Ellis was too close during his awkward Grande embrace from the podium.

 

Contributing: Associated Press

 

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