Aretha Franklin’s Family Criticizes Reverend’s ‘Offensive and Distasteful’ Eulogy During Funeral

“We feel that Rev. Jasper Williams, Jr. used this platform to push his negative agenda, which as a family, we do not agree with,” Vaughn Franklin says.

Rev. Jasper Williams, Jr., delivers the eulogy during the funeral service for Aretha Franklin at Greater Grace Temple, in Detroit. Franklin died Aug. 16, 2018 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 76Aretha Franklin, Detroit, USA - 31 Aug 2018
Paul Sancya/AP/REX/Shutterstock

In another round of fallout from Aretha Franklin’s nine-hour-long funeral on Friday, the late singer’s family has criticized Rev. Jasper Williams Jr.’s eulogy as “offensive and distasteful,” in a statement to the Associated Press.

Williams was criticized for a politically themed eulogy that described children being raised without a father as “abortion after birth” and that black lives do not matter unless blacks stop killing each other. The latter comment prompted an immediate reaction from featured performer and Franklin’s longtime friend Stevie Wonder, who shouted out “black lives matter.”

In a statement on the family’s behalf, the singer’s nephew Vaughn Franklin said the Atlanta pastor “spent more than 50 minutes speaking and at no time did he properly eulogize [Aretha Franklin]. My aunt did not ask Rev. Jasper Williams, Jr. to eulogize her before she passed away because dying is a topic that she never discussed with anyone.”

The eulogy, which included strong statements on Black Lives Matter, single parenthood, and other controversial topics, had not been discussed in advance and “caught the entire family off guard.

“We feel that Rev. Jasper Williams, Jr. used this platform to push his negative agenda, which as a family, we do not agree with,” Franklin concluded.

Franklin said Williams had been selected by the Franklins because he had spoken at other family services in the past, including the funeral of the singer’s father, minister and civil rights activist C.L. Franklin, in 1984.

The AP reported that Williams “has not backed down” from his comments at the funeral, but said he respects the family’s opinion. “I understand it,” he said. “I regret it. But I’m sorry they feel that way.”

Also on Friday, Bishop Charles Ellis III, who led the service, fell under harsh criticism for the manner in which he touched featured performer Ariana Grande onstage. The pastor held the 25-year-old singer close, with his arm around her back and his hand touching the side of her chest. He has apologized for what he described as his perhaps “too friendly” contact.