After he secured a spot as an American Idol finalist on Sunday, 16-year-old Caleb Kennedy exited the show over a resurfaced social media post that appeared to show someone wearing a Ku Klux Klan hat. ABC confirmed that Kennedy would "no longer be moving forward in the competition," and added that Sunday's episode will now feature only four finalists with one elimination.
Kennedy also announced his departure from the show and apologized in posts on his social media accounts. "I was younger and did not think about the actions, but that's not an excuse," he wrote. "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." Kennedy also added that he would be taking a break from social media.
The Snapchat video shows a younger Kennedy sitting against a wall. At first, it looks like he's alone, but after a moment he turns his camera to show he is sitting next to a person wearing a white hood that looks like a KKK robe, with the caption "oh my."
The three-second video went viral online after YouTube comedian Def Noodles shared it on Twitter on Tuesday night with the caption, "THIS SHOULD'VE STAYED IN YOUR DRAFTS." As of Thursday morning, the video had been viewed more than 73,000 times. Some fans of the show were outraged over the post, while others thought the show took matters too far by eliminating the contestant over a video he made when he was 12 years old.
Following the news that Kennedy would be leaving the show, American Idol removed all signs of the 16-year-old singer from its social media platforms, according to The Washington Post. Videos of Kennedy were taken off the show's Instagram account, and there is no longer footage featuring him in their story highlights. The show's official YouTube channel also removed all of Kennedy's past performances.
In a statement to Spartanburg Herald-Journal, Kennedy's mother Anita Guy said it was an issue of how people perceived the video. "I hate this has happened and how Caleb is being portrayed by people online," Guy said. "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."