First, American Idol Season 19 frontrunner Wyatt Pike suddenly dropped out of the competition for “personal reasons” during top 12 week, and now, with only two weeks left in the season, another former fan favorite, Caleb Kennedy, is also leaving the show.
However, the reason for Kennedy’s exit is less mysterious. The 16-year-old singer-songwriter, who wowed the judges with his gritty originals like “Mama Said” and “Nowhere” and said he wanted to be a “legend” who “changed country music,” has lost his shot at becoming the next American Idol, after a video circulated of him sitting next to someone wearing what appears to be a Ku Klux Klan hood.
The video, reportedly a Snapchat post from when Kennedy was age 12, went viral Tuesday when YouTube comedian and talk show host DefNoodles, the alter ego of a man named Dennis Feitosa, tweeted it to his 127,000 followers. By the next day, Kennedy had taken to social media to announce his departure from Idol.
“Hey y’all, this is gonna be a bit of a surprise but I am no longer gonna be on American Idol,” Kennedy, the only country contestant in this season’s top five, posted. “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. 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."
The singer’s mother, Anita Guy, came to Kennedy’s defense, telling the Herald-Journal in the family's home state of South Carolina that the three-second video had been taken out of context. “I hate this has happened and how Caleb is being portrayed by people online. 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,” Guy said.
According to the Herald-Journal report, the original version of the video, as opposed to the edited version shared on Twitter, did not have the word “bow” or any background music.
A source close to the show did not comment on the video, but told Yahoo Entertainment, “American Idol contestant Caleb Kennedy will no longer be moving forward in the competition. Sunday’s episode will feature the top four with one contestant elimination.” Neither of the contestants who were eliminated last Sunday when the top seven became the top five, Arthur Gunn and Hunter Metts, will be returning to take Kennedy’s spot.
Sunday’s episode will feature the remaining four semifinalists — Chayce Beckham, Casey Bishop, Grace Kinstler, and Willie Spence — performing original songs, “personal songs,” and duets, with Billie Eilish's Grammy-winning producer/co-songwriter/brother Finneas serving as guest mentor.
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