Pastor accused of groping at funeral
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.
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