Promising “American Idol” finalist Caleb Kennedy has exited the competition after a video surfaced showing him with someone wearing a Ku Klux Klan-styled hood.
Kennedy, a country singer, was one of five competitors left in the running on the 19th season of the popular musical competition. However, on Wednesday, May 12, Kennedy announced on his verified Instagram page that he would be leaving the show following the surfacing of the online video that critics found offensive.
In the three-second clip, which has since been circulating the internet, the 16-year-old appeared sitting next to someone wearing a white hood with two holes in it, reminiscent of those worn by the KKK. The video sparked outrage almost immediately. The Twitter account, which posted the video titled “Def Noodles” wrote, “THIS SHOULD’VE STAYED IN YOUR DRAFTS: American Idol contestant Caleb Kennedy allegedly seen in a resurfaced with someone wearing a KKK hood.” It added, “Caleb is allegedly blocking anyone who mentions the video, according to multiple reports.”
The account later shared a photo proving that Kennedy did indeed block them.
Many of Kennedy’s fans, including his mother, Anita Guy, jumped to his defense, claiming that he was just a teenager at the time and shouldn’t be disciplined for his action. Guy told the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, “I hate this has happened and how Caleb is being portrayed by people online…his video was taken after Caleb had watched the movie ‘The Strangers: Prey at Night’ and they were imitating those characters.” She added, “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.”
Another fan on social media wrote, “The kid is 16. Let’s go back in time and pull up all the stupid crap any of you all have done as a minor. Caleb will be back.” Still, critics were not buying anyone’s excuse for Kennedy. One Twitter user fired back, writing, “They won’t find me with the klan. I knew better as a kid and I knew it was disgusting and sick. Find another sorry excuse.”
“I knew who the KKK were at 12. Anyone saying ‘but he was 12!!’ are being deliberately stupid,” wrote another person. “He knew who they were, and he knew it was wrong. He just didn’t care. There is a difference between messing up at 12 and making a racist joke at 12.”
Kennedy took full accountability for his actions in a lengthy notes-style Instagram post, writing, “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.”
The singer cited a lack of thinking behind his participation in the video, but said, “that’s not an excuse….I wanna say sorry to all my fans and everyone who I have let down.” The former contestant revealed that he would be taking a hiatus from social media to “better myself.”
Kennedy concluded his post by stating, “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.”
Representatives from the show have not yet publicly responded to the scandal. However, according to the Herald-Journal, Kennedy was quickly wiped from all official “American Idol” communications and social media posts.