Top five American Idol finalist Caleb Kennedy is leaving the show after a video surfaced of him sitting next to a friend who was wearing what looked like a Ku Klux Klan hood.
While Idol and ABC haven’t yet commented on the video or his exit, Kennedy took to social media to say he won’t be on the show any longer because of the controversial clip.
“Hey y’all, this is gonna be a bit of a surprise, but I am no longer gonna be on American Idol,” the 16-year-old singer tweeted Wednesday (May 12). “There was a video that surfaced on the internet and it displayed actions that were not meant to be taken in that way. I was younger and did not think about the actions, but that’s not an excuse. I wanna say sorry to all my fans and everyone who I have let down.
“I’ll be taking a little time off social media to better myself, but saying that, I know this has hurt and disappointed a lot of people and made people lose respect for me,” his note continues. “I’m so sorry! I pray that I can one day regain your trust in who I am and have your respect! Thank you for supporting me.”
Billboard can confirm that Sunday’s episode will now include the top four finalists and one contestant will be eliminated.
Two of seven contestants were eliminated on this past Sunday’s show, putting Kennedy in the top five for season 19. He was set to perform an original song on this Sunday’s show as the contestants were mentored by iconic producers. One of those mentors is four-time BMI songwriter of the year Ross Copperman, who marveled at the talent of the teenage Kennedy and praised the depth of his songwriting in an interview with Billboard before the controversy. “He really knows who he is as an artist,” Copperman said of Kennedy.
Kennedy’s mom, Anita Gay, spoke to South Carolina’s Spartanburg Herald-Journal, telling her local paper that the video was made when Kennedy was 12 years old and that he and his friends were imitating a horror movie, not the KKK. “I hate this has happened and how Caleb is being portrayed by people online,” Guy told the paper. “This video was taken after Caleb had watched the movie The Strangers: Prey at Night and they were imitating those characters. It had nothing to do with the Ku Klux Klan, but I know that’s how it looks. Caleb doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. He loves everyone and has friends of all races.”
See Kennedy’s post below:
An update from me, about American Idol. pic.twitter.com/uuHc2sSiM4
— Caleb Kennedy (@calebkennedy) May 12, 2021