Pastor apologizes after furious backlash for 'groping' Ariana Grande during Aretha Franklin's funeral

Pastor apologizes after furious backlash for 'groping' Ariana Grande during Aretha Franklin's funeral

Ariana Grande was one of a star-studded cast of performers and celebrities who attended Aretha Franklin's funeral on Friday.

The event represented a celebration of the 'Queen of Soul's' life and remarkable career, and Grande performed a rendition of  "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" during the service.

Immediately after her powerful performance that pastor Charles H. Ellis III labelled Grande an "icon herself", but it was a comment made by the pastor beforehand that first began to ruffle some feathers.

“I’ve got to apologize because I have to brush up," the pastor said, before remarking;

“My 28-year-old daughter tells me, ‘Dad, you are old at 60.’ When I saw Ariana Grande on the program, I thought that was a new something at Taco Bell. Girl, let me give you all your respect.”

The pastor was subsequently seen wrapping his arm around the singer, high above her waist in what many viewers have dubbed "groping".

The outcry was immediate and widespread, with commenters taking to social media to express their discomfort and displeasure at the pastor's actions.

In an interview with the Associated Press, the pastor issued an apology, saying;

"I personally and sincerely apologize to Ariana and to her fans and to the whole Hispanic community.

“When you’re doing a program for nine hours, you try to keep it lively, you try to insert some jokes here and there.”

Addressing the issue of inappropriate touching, he continued;

“It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast. … I don’t know; I guess I put my arm around her.

“Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar, but again, I apologize.”

New York Times reporter commented on the incident on social media, writing;

“I think every woman can look at Ariana Grande’s face and body language and viscerally feel what she’s feeling. The tension. The nervous laughter. Not wanting to make a scene or make him angry. Every woman knows this feeling.

“But google her and everyone’s talking about her dress.”

Indeed, there were many comments on social media about the length of Grande's dress. Though, as some pointed out, this took attention away from the pastor's joke and subsequent actions.