Justin Bieber was spotted kissing a man in candid new paparazzi photos, and the images have caused fans to go into meltdown mode on social media.
The candid photos surfaced online on April 23 and showed Justin planting a kiss on another man’s cheek while the two then shared a hug.
Bieber fans were up in arms after the images found their way online, with some even claiming on social media that the photos were supposedly proof the singer was “gay,” despite Justin dating some of Hollywood’s most eligible bachelorettes.
“Who is this man Justin is kissing?” Twitter user @gagaspurpose asked alongside the images of Bieber planting a kiss on the man’s cheek before they then shared a hug.
Another Justin fan then asked in response to the images, “Can we have more photos of Justin kissing boys please?”
However, while some fans were pretty much sent into meltdown mode over the photos that saw the pop star planting a kiss on another man’s cheek, the images actually captured a sweet moment between Bieber and his pastor.
The man who shared the embrace — and kiss on the cheek — was actually Pastor Rich Wilkerson Jr., who served as the officiant at Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s 2014 wedding in Florence, Italy, and is thought to have been a close friend of Justin’s for some time.
Fans were quick to hit back at those calling out Justin’s exchange with Wilkerson, who previously started in the Oxygen reality series Rich in Faith with his wife DawnCheré, and noted that the kiss on the cheek was purely platonic after some social media users jumped to conclusions, and even questioned Bieber’s sexuality, on Twitter.
“Justin Bieber is seen kissing a guy on the cheek which is supposedly his pastor and all of a sudden everyone is assuming he’s gay or bi, y’all dumb,” @kidrauhls***s hit back in response to the kissing photos that hit the web on April 23.
“I can’t believe some of y’all are so stupid to think that cheek kissing is a gay thing to do. JUSTIN HAS FRIENDS AND THAT MAN IS MARRIED,” @drxwdarkness added amid the drama after the kissing photos of Bieber and Wilkerson surfaced online, as Twitter user @rileyyxxo responded, “You idiots are really calling Justin gay because he kissed a friend? Wow… I’m done with y’all.”
Notably, Justin and Rich have known each other for years, and Wilkerson even spoke out about his long friendship with Bieber during an interview with Entertainment Tonight back in January 2016 in which he praised the singer after he had a pretty rocky 2015.
“He’s been thrown into a whirlwind that I’ll never know and so I think on his journey he’s always trying to figure it out,” Wilkerson said of Bieber at the time, noting that that the “What Do You Mean” singer has “got a heart of gold” despite his past struggles.
Rich also went on to defend Justin against the intense and often negative media attention he receives while calling Bieber “the most talented person” he knows years before the star planted a kiss on his cheek.
“Anybody who gets put into that limelight gets a bad rap,” Wilkerson said of Bieber in the interview a year ago, claiming that Justin has been “exploited” by the media. “When you do something good, that gets exploited. When you do something bad, that gets exploited.”
“People aren’t projects, people are people. Projects have a start date and a finish date — that’s not people,” the pastor continued while discussing Bieber. “People are eternal beings and our job is to love, encourage, affirm.”
“I’m thankful for him and I’m grateful for the man that he is,” Rich then added of Justin over a year ago.
Wilkerson has also showed off his friendship with the singer on social media in the past, as People reported that Rich posted a video to Snapchat back in May 2015 that showed himself hanging out and spending time with Bieber and on/off girlfriend Selena Gomez, who is also thought to be friendly with the pastor.
What do you think of the response to photos of Justin Bieber kissing another man on the cheek?
[Featured Image by Jason Merritt/Getty Images]