Pas­tor ac­cused of grop­ing at fu­neral

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Cleve Wootson Jr.

Crit­ics say the pas­tor’s ac­tions hap­pened on­stage at singer Aretha Franklin’s ser­vices.

Ari­ana Grande had just belted out one of Aretha Franklin’s sig­na­ture hits at the Queen of Soul’s fu­neral Fri­day, a mov­ing ren­di­tion of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Nat­u­ral Woman” that prompted of­fi­ci­at­ing pas­tor Charles El­lis III to call the singer on­stage to honor her as “an icon her­self.”

But it’s a re­mark that came be­fore that — and what some have de­scribed as too-fa­mil­iar touch­ing from an older man — that has El­lis apol­o­giz­ing to the singer, her fans and the His­panic com­mu­nity.

“I’ve got to apol­o­gize, be­cause I have to brush up,” he said shortly af­ter call­ing Grande back to the podium. “My 28-year-old daugh­ter tells me, ‘Dad, you are old at 60.’ When I saw Ari­ana Grande on the pro­gram, I thought that was a new some­thing at Taco Bell. Girl, let me give you all your re­spect.”

As he joked about the singer, he wrapped his hand around her, high above her waist in an act many are call­ing grop­ing.

El­lis, the pas­tor of the 6,000-mem­ber Greater Grace Tem­ple in Detroit, apol­o­gized.

“I per­son­ally and sin­cerely apol­o­gize to Ari­ana and to her fans and to the whole His­panic com­mu­nity,” El­lis said.

He told The Associated Press that any in­ap­pro­pri­ate touch was in­ci­den­tal, and that he had hugged all the per­form­ers on Fri­day, male and fe­male.

“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.”

For many, the apol­ogy was not enough. They said the touch­ing is what rou­tinely hap­pens to fe­male artists in an era of #MeToo.

Grande could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment Satur­day.

PAUL SAN­CYA/AP

Bishop Charles El­lis III, holds Ari­ana Grande af­ter her song Fri­day at the fu­neral ser­vice for Aretha Franklin in Detroit. NEWS BRIEF­ING Staff and news ser­vices

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