‘American Idol’ quietly ejects finalist Caleb Kennedy amid video of KKK-style attire

Caleb Kennedy holding a guitar
Top 5 finalist Caleb Kennedy will no longer compete on “American Idol.”
(Eric McCandless / ABC)

Caleb Kennedy, a top 5 finalist on “American Idol,” will no longer compete on the show after a controversial old video of the young singer circulated on social media this week.

The Times confirmed Thursday that Kennedy, 16, will not move forward on ABC’s singing competition, and Sunday’s episode will “feature the Top 4 with one contestant elimination.”

The news comes after a damaging video of Kennedy surfaced online Tuesday. In it, the singer sits next to a person in a pointed white sheet with eyeholes cut out, closely resembling a Ku Klux Klan hood. The word “bow” is captioned over the clip. YouTube personality Def Noodles (Dennis Feitosa) shared the clip on Twitter, where it has already attracted more than 100,000 views.

Though ABC and “American Idol” haven’t issued a public statement, Kennedy’s departure from the show was quiet but swift. His appearances have since been removed from the show’s official YouTube channel and Instagram and Twitter accounts.


Kennedy, a South Carolina native, issued an apology Wednesday.

“There was a video that surfaced on the internet and it displayed actions that were not meant to be taken in that way,” he wrote. “I was younger and did not think about the actions, but that’s not an excuse.”

In an interview with the Herald-Journal, a member of Kennedy’s family said the video was recorded when the singer was 12.

“I hate this has happened and how Caleb is being portrayed by people online,” Anita Guy, Kennedy’s mother, told the South Carolina newspaper. She said the attire was inspired by the 2018 horror movie “The Strangers: Prey at Night,” and that Kennedy once dressed up as the main character in “V for Vendetta” for Halloween.

“[The hood] had nothing to do with the Ku Klux Klan, but I know that’s how it looks,” she continued. “Caleb doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. He loves everyone and has friends of all races.”


“I wanna say sorry to all my fans and everyone who I have let down,” Kennedy wrote in his apology statement, noting that he’ll be stepping away from social media temporarily. “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.”

Season 19 of “American Idol” premiered in February with judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie. Kennedy had impressed the panel with performances of original songs he had written and performed on the show.