Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, the Pentecostal preacher who officiated Aretha Franklin’s funeral, has apologized for his handling of pop star Ariana Grande during Friday’s service.
“It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast. … I don’t know I guess I put my arm around her,” Mr. Ellis, 60, told The Associated Press later Friday. “Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize.”
The presiding bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Mr. Ellis was accused of groping Ms. Grande after photographs circulated on social media showing him touching the side of the 25-year-old singer’s chest during an embrace that occurred following her performance of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” during Friday’s service.
“I hug all the female artists and the male artists,” Mr. Ellis said in an interview conducted at the cemetery where Franklin where interred Friday. “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 added.
The so-called Queen of Soul, Franklin died Aug. 16 of pancreatic cancer. She was 76.
In addition to Ms. Grande, fellow artists including Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan performed during Friday’s eight-hour-long service in Detroit, Michigan.
A representative for Ms. Grande did not immediately return an email seeking comment.