The bishop responsible for officiating Aretha Franklin’s funeral has apologised to singer Ariana Grande after being criticised for the way he touched her on stage.
Bishop Charles H. Ellis III had an awkward interaction with Grande after she performed “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”.
Images of the moment showed Ellis with his arm around an uncomfortable-looking Grande, with one hand above her waist and his fingers pressing against the right side of her chest.
Ellis later apologised in an interview with the Associated Press, saying 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 said. “Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologise.
“I hug all the female artists and the male artists,” he continued. “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.”
He added: “The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin.”
The bishop also apologised to Ariana Grande, her fans and the Hispanic community for joking about mistaking her name on the programme for a new item on the menu at Mexican fast food restaurant Taco Bell.
“I personally and sincerely apologise to Ariana and to her fans and to the whole Hispanic community,” Ellis said.
“When you’re doing a programme for nine hours you try to keep it lively, you try to insert some jokes here and there.”
At the ceremony, Grande performed her take on “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, the 1967 song written by Carole King, that became one of Franklin’s signature hits.
Grande was one of several performers to sing at the event, including Stevie Wonder, Faith Hill, gospel trio The Clark Sisters, and Chaka Khan.
Franklin died earlier this month at the age of 76, from pancreatic cancer.