After last Thursday's controversial "American Idol" results show, Alex Preston and Jena Irene might have had reason to worry about a fan backlash. (They cast the two dissenting votes in an "Idol Twist" round that resulted in fellow contestant Sam Woolf getting sent home.) But now it's another top four finalist, Caleb Johnson, who's catching flak, after one of his shocking post-show interviews has gone viral.
Speaking to After Buzz TV last week about his opinion of social media, Caleb expressed some of his lingering resentment over having to perform the fan-requested Aerosmith ballad "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" — a song he admitted he hates, and arguably his weakest performance of the season — by blasting his followers who supposedly regularly spam his Twitter feed with unwelcome song suggestions.
To dis his superfans (i.e., the people most likely to SuperVote for him) was foolish enough. But his politically incorrect wording made the situation much, much worse.
"[Twitter] gives access to a bunch of retards to talk to me," Caleb said, astonishingly. "I don't really enjoy having to see somebody telling me what song I have to sing. I think at this point of the competition, I can pick and choose my own songs and represent me. I don't need 10,000 people saying, 'You should sing this, you should sing that. Listen to me!' Fortunately, guys, I'm going to listen to myself, whether you like it or not."
Obviously, the use of the dreaded "R-word" under any circumstances would have been offensive and unacceptable. But the fact that Caleb seemed to be directing this slur at engaged, well-meaning fans (as opposed to "haters") was simply baffling… and it was possible career suicide, with the finale and a record contract only three weeks away.
While Caleb's aforementioned Aerosmith cover last Wednesday had been underwhelming, he'd easily rebounded with a tour de force rendition of Whitesnake's "Still of the Night" (ironically, also a fan request) that was actually one of the greatest performances of Season 13. (It even garnered kudos from Whitesnake frontman David Coverdale — on Twitter!) But Caleb squandered much of that goodwill with his thoughtless remark. Many fans, possibly former fans, took to — wait for it — Twitter to vent their anger and disappointment over what Caleb had said.
@CalebPJohnson I don't appreciate being called a retard. I was a fan who occasionally wanted you to sing certain songs. WAS. Bye— Kyle Brooks (@Taithleach) May 4, 2014
as much as it pains me, I'm unfollowing @CalebPJohnson on twitter. I'll need an apology before I debase myself enough to keep flwing him.— doodette (@idoldre) May 3, 2014
On Saturday afternoon, Caleb addressed this controversy on his Facebook page (but not on Twitter), posting:
"For the record that juvenile comment I made in the interview was not directed towards my fans but to the wackos that send hundreds of hate messages a day to me! You guys are amazing and I cannot thank you enough for your support. Sorry if it offended anybody it was the wrong choice of words. Also I greatly appreciate it when you guys give me song suggestions but it gets really overwhelming at the volume it comes in so please understand ! Rock on !:)"
Caleb's apology oddly didn't quite vibe with what he'd originally complained about to After Buzz TV (he hadn't mentioned anything about "hate messages," only song requests). Nor did he seem to demonstrate a true understanding of the hurtfulness of his words. However, judging from his Facebook comments, many fans seem forgiving and believe that he meant no harm. Whether his Facebook statement was enough to repair any damage done to his reputation and help him maintain his frontrunner status heading into next week's top four show, we shall soon find out.
But if Caleb does stay on the show in the coming weeks, it might be a good idea for him to re-enroll in the media training class that was offered at Randy Jackson's "Idol" workshop.