Caleb Kennedy is leaving American Idol ahead of the 2021 season finale.
On Wednesday night, the country-singing top five contestant announced that he was exiting the ABC singing competition after a controversial Snapchat video of himself from the past resurfaced online. In it, NBC reports that Caleb is seen sitting next to and filming someone wearing what looks like a Ku Klux Klan hood. According to the Herald Journal, Caleb’s family maintains that the video was recorded when he was 12.
Addressing the controversy, Caleb penned an apology on Instagram while announcing his departure from the show:
“Hey, y’all, this is gonna be a bit of a surprise, but I am no longer gonna be on American Idol. There was a video that surfaced on the internet and it displayed actions that were not meant to be taken in that way,” Kennedy wrote. “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 Herald Journal reports that the video has been shared on Twitter, where in some versions there is music and the word “bow” added on it. The original version reportedly did not have words or music on it.
Caleb’s mother, Anita Guy, spoke with the newspaper regarding the video. “I hate this has happened and how Caleb is being portrayed by people online,” she told The Herald. “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.”
Caleb’s exit comes just weeks away from American Idol crowning its next winner. When first appearing on the show, Caleb made a lasting impression on judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie while singing his original song titled “Nowhere.” At the time, Katy told Caleb, “You better finish that song ‘Nowhere,’ because it’s gonna take you somewhere.”
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