American Idol finalist still wants ‘respect’ after appearing in KKK-themed video

American Idol Caleb Kennedy

Caleb Kennedy has been cut from American Idol after a video surfaced showing him sitting next to someone wearing a white hood reminiscent of those worn by the Ku Klux Klan.

Kennedy’s departure was confirmed by a source close to American Idol who told PEOPLE the episode on Sunday (16 May) “will feature the top four with one contestant elimination”.

The country singer’s exit comes after a video started circulating online which shows a younger Kennedy next to someone wearing a Ku Klux Klan-style hood with the word “bow” appearing in the middle of the screen.

Kennedy addressed the video and his elimination from the hit singing competition in a statement on social media. He wrote: “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. I was younger and did not think about my actions, but that’s not an excuse.”

The 16-year-old apologised to all his fans and “everyone who I have let down” before saying he would be “taking a little time off social media to better myself”. Kennedy added that he knew the video has “hurt and disappointed a lot of people and made people lose respect for me”, but he hoped to “one day regain your trust” and “have your respect”.


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The Herald-Journal reported the video was taken on Snapchat and was recorded when Kennedy was 12-years-old. Anita Guy, Kennedy’s mother, told the news outlet that the video was taken after Kennedy watched the movie The Strangers: Prey at Night, and the two young people were “imitating those characters”.

The Strangers: Prey at Night is a 2018 American slasher-thriller movie in which a family is attacked by three masked offenders. Guy argued the costume had “nothing to do with the Ku Klux Klan” as the kids were imitating the people in the movie, but she acknowledged that she knows “that’s how it looks”.

“Caleb doesn’t have a racist bone in his body,” Guy said. “He loves everyone and has friends of all races.”

Kennedy is a country singer and has performed covers of Willie Nelson and Jason Aldean while on American Idol. The remaining finalists he was competing with on season 19 of the show included Casey Bishop, Grace Kinstler, Chayce Beckham and Willie Spence.