Bishop sorry for embrace of Ariana Grande at Aretha funeral: report

Pastor Charles Ellis speaks as he stands with singer Ariana Grande after she performed at the funeral service for Aretha Franklin at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., August 31, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

(Reuters) - The bishop who officiated at Aretha Franklin’s funeral has apologized for being “too familiar” when he embraced singer Ariana Grande after her tribute to the Queen of Soul.

Bishop Charles H. Ellis III of the Greater Grace Temple was criticized by many social media users for appearing to touch the side of the Grammy-nominated artist’s breast after she sang at the funeral in Detroit on Friday.

Some tagged photos online with the hashtag #RespectAriana, riffing on the title of one of Franklin’s biggest hits.

“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 told the Associated Press after the service. “Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize.”

Ellis could not be reached for comment on Saturday. Calls and an email to Greater Grace Temple were not immediately returned. Representatives for Grande could not immediately be reached for comment.

Grande, whose songs include “Problem” and “No Tears Left to Cry,” sang Franklin’s hit “Natural Woman” at the funeral.

Among those seated behind Grande as she performed were former President Bill Clinton, civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Leslie Adler