He’s sorry. Fans were outraged on Friday, Aug. 31 after watching video footage from Aretha Franklin’s funeral service that seemed to show Ariana Grande getting allegedly groped by Bishop Bishop Charles H. Ellis III while the pastor introduced her before her tribute. After Arianators made the hashtags #RespectAriana and #RespectArianaAndAllWomen trend on social media, the pastor issued a formal apology for his actions.
“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 in his apology statement obtained by the Associated Press. “Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize. The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin.”
In video footage obtained by Variety, the pastor had placed his arm around Ariana as he led her back to the podium after she performed Aretha’s classic “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and he seemed to place his hand at the side of Ariana’s right breast. His hand remained there until Ariana left the stage, and fans felt that it was proof that he had groped her and they all took to Twitter to express their anger.
“WAKE UP PEOPLE [sic] she looks so uncomfortable here and ya know what? He is so disgusting, he groped her many times and people still ‘it was an accident’ OMG those who say that can keep your opinion away [because] y’all are toxic ASF. Every woman deserves to be treated nicely,” one fan wrote, while another commented, “She CLEARLY [sic] looked uncomfortable. I can’t believe some would expect her to defend herself on live TV one someone else’s funeral. Her dress had nothing to do with anything. What women wears [sic] will never be an invitation for assault, she never asked for it.”
Ariana has yet to comment on the incident, or respond to the pastor’s apology.