Ariana Grande attended Aretha Franklin's homegoing on Friday (Aug. 31st) to perform a moving rendition of the Queen of Soul's classic song "Natural Woman." While Grande was speaking with the bishop who led the funeral, many noticed that his hand was touching her breast throughout their interaction. Bishop Charles H Ellis III can be seen holding the 25-year-old singer high above her waist with a tight grip in photos and videos from the event. Many people took to Twitter to call out his behavior as groping and the Bishop has since apologized.
"It would never be my intention to touch any woman's breast," he told the Associated Press. "Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar. But again, I apologize." He added that he hugged all the artists, both male and female. "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."
For many, though, the apology was not enough and offered apologies of their own to the singer. Claudia Jordan wrote on Twitter, "I'm really sorry you had to go through that...that groping was beyond blatant and we could all see and feel your discomfort."
Others shared how they related to Grande's situation. Ariel Dumas retweeted a video of the uncomfortable moment, writing, "raise your hand if a dude has pulled this trick on you and watching this made you viscerally feel those fingers creeping to grab more boob."
There was also backlash against the outfit Grande chose to wear to the funeral - saying her dress was too short for such an occasion and implied that by dressing that way she was "asking for it." Nicholas Liddle clapped back at those people, "y'all are talking about [Ariana Grande's] dress being too short when we could be talking about this groping and how uncomfortable Ariana is?"
Her defenders were quick to create a hashtag in support of the pop star. #RespectAriana could be seen all over social media on Saturday (Sept. 1st).
Angus Johnston, a CUNY professor, dismissed the Bishop's claim that the way he touched Grande was friendly. "Set aside the fact that his fingers were on her breast. He was *gripping* her. Pressing her toward [him] so she couldn't step back without making a public scene at a funeral."
Bishop Ellis also caught flak for making a joke about Grande's name, saying when he saw her on the program he thought it was the latest item added to the Taco Bell menu. He apologized for that, as well. "I personally and sincerely apologise to Ariana and to her fans and to the whole Hispanic community," he said. "When you're doing a program for nine hours you try to keep it lively, you try to insert some jokes here and there."
Finally, he added: "The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin."
Grande performed alongside other musical greats, such as Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan, to honor the Queen of Soul who passed away from pancreatic cancer at the age of 76. Grande has not yet commented on the incident.