UPDATE (5/17/21, 10:30 a.m. ET): Following the May 17 semi-finals, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan broke their silence about Caleb’s exit. “Well, losing great talent is always [hard],” Lionel told Entertainment Tonight. “This is our class. This is the class of 2021. So, you know, it was an unfortunate situation,” Richie shared. “We had to ride with what’s happening with ABC, and you know that’s where we play. So you know we wish him all the best, but that was just one of those unfortunate things that happens along the way of life.” Luke called the situation “devastating news” and said “our thoughts will be with him as he grows as an artist.”
American Idol Top 5 finalist Caleb Kennedy, 16, announced on May 12 that he has been eliminated from the competition series while apologizing for appearing in a controversial video that circulated online the same day. “Hey y’all, this is gonna be a bit of a surprise, but I am no longer gonna be on American Idol,” Caleb tweeted. “There was a video that surfaced on the internet and it displayed actions that were not meant to be taken in any way. I was younger and did not think about the actions, but that’s not an excuse.”
An update from me, about American Idol. pic.twitter.com/uuHc2sSiM4
— Caleb Kennedy (@calebkennedy) May 12, 2021
The video in question is circulating online and allegedly shows Caleb with a friend wearing what appears to be a Ku Klux Klan hood. However, due to the fact that Caleb is underage, we will not be linking out to the clip. “I wanna say sorry to all my fans and everyone who I have let down,” Caleb tweeted. “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!”
After Caleb’s elimination, Idol will be going forward with just four artists singing on the upcoming May 16 episode, as opposed to the original top 5. One person (originally supposed to be two) will be eliminated, leaving just three singers left to perform during the May 23 finale. At that point, one will be crowned the winner.
According to Caleb’s mother, Anita Guy, the video was taken when he was 12. She told the Herald-Journal, “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.”
Caleb comes from Roebuck, South Carolina, and impressed the American Idol judges deeply during his first audition. He sang an original song, called “Nowhere,” and told Luke Bryan that he writes new music “every day.” Katy Perry told him that she believed he had “something real special,” and Lionel Richie even said Caleb already mastered a “storyteller’s voice.” It was only upward from there.
Caleb’s last appearance on American Idol was during the May 9 show, when he was selected as one of the Top 5. The contestants all tackled a Coldplay hit, and Caleb had opted to put a country spin on “Violet Hill.” Katy told him that the performance “scared” her, but “in a good way because it was that good.” While Lionel said that his confidence seemed like it “dipped” a bit as he sang, he was still doing great.
With Caleb eliminated, the remaining American Idol contestants are: Casey Bishop, Grace Kinstler, Chayce Beckham, and Willie Spence.