Aretha Franklin funeral bishop apologises to Ariana

Bishop Charles H Ellis III has apologised to Ariana Grande amid claims he inappropriately touched her while she performed at the funeral of the late Aretha Franklin.

Shortly after singing Franklin's classic '(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman' for those who gathered to pay respect to the legendary singer, Grande stood next to the bishop who subsequently put his arm around her, with some claiming that he appeared to touch her breast.

Ellis' actions have been met with online controversy, with the hashtag #RespectAriana being used more than 90,000 times on Twitter.

Ellis has now responded to the backlash in a statement obtained by Sky News, where he vehemently denied intentionally touching Grande inappropriately.

He said: "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 apologise."

The preacher then explained that he hugged all of the performers during Franklin's nine-hour service.

"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."

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Ellis also apologised for a joke he made about the singer's name. At the service, the bishop suggested that after seeing Grande's name on the programme, he thought there'd been an addition to the Taco Bell menu.

"I personally and sincerely apologise to Ariana and to her fans and to the whole Hispanic community," he stated.

"When you're doing a programme for nine hours you try to keep it lively, you try to insert some jokes here and there."