Caleb Kennedy has left “American Idol” after a video of him sitting next to someone wearing a Ku Klux Klan-style hood surfaced on Wednesday, May 12, 2021.
Kennedy, 16, made it to the Top 5 earlier this week on “American Idol,” but he will no longer be competing in the reality singing competition.
In an Instagram post uploaded to his page on Wednesday, Kennedy wrote, in part, “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 the actions, but that’s not an excuse.”
The video was posted on Snapchat and was recorded when Kennedy was 12 years old.
Here’s what you need to know about Caleb Kennedy:
1. Kennedy’s Mother Has Made a Statement About the Video
While the video clip is only three seconds long, it has garnered negative attention from “American Idol” fans across the country.
On Wednesday, May 12, Kennedy’s mother, Anita Guy, stated that the “perception is not the meaning behind the short clip,” per the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.
Guy told the outlet, “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.”
Guy added that the video was taken not long after her son also watched the film “V for Vendetta,” which was popular at that time. Guy told the outlet that Caleb dressed up as the main character in the latter film for Halloween when he was in seventh grade.
Because of Kennedy’s departure from the show, only the Top 4 remain, so only one person will be eliminated from the show on this Sunday’s episode.
2. Kennedy Left His High School’s Football Team to Pursue His Musical Dreams
Kennedy is a former football player. According to The State, who interviewed Kennedy’s grandparents, the 16-year-old currently attends Dorman High School, where he is described as a “down-to-earth kid” by Principal Bryant Roberson.
“You couldn’t ask for a better student,” Roberson told The State.
As a freshman, Kennedy played junior varsity football. And, as noted by the outlet, the school has had “more than a few players going on to the NFL.”
When Kennedy auditioned for “American Idol,” he left the football team, which Daniel Wyatt, one of the team’s coaches, stated was a “very good decision.”
“He needs to chase his dream,” the coach added.
3. He Made It to the Final 5 on ‘Idol’
Kennedy made it all the way to the Top 5 on “American Idol” before leaving the show. The teen hails from a small town in South Carolina called Roebuck, and prides himself on being both a singer and songwriter.
When Kennedy sang the song “Nowhere” on a recent episode of “Idol,” Luke Bryan stated it was incredible, and asked who helped him write the song.
Kennedy simply replied, “No one.”
As pointed out by The State, Roebuck doesn’t have a downtown area. It only has “… a line of fix-it shops, strip malls, and a bank along state Highway 221.” The population is 2,300.
4. He Bought His First Guitar With Money From His 13th Birthday
Kennedy bought his first guitar for his 13th birthday after pooling together birthday money he got from family members.
Kennedy’s grandfather told The State that the family would take him for guitar lessons, and “the teacher said he knew more than they did.”
The outlet continued, “His talent ran so deep he could hear a song and play it. Then he started hearing his own songs. One he wrote was called ‘That’s My Papa.’ It’s a tribute to [his grandfather] … After Kennedy’s parents divorced, Blanton became a major figure in the young man’s life.”
5. ‘I Want My Music to Tell a Story’
In an interview with Go Upstate, Kennedy said, “I want my music to tell a story.”
For the show’s Disney week, he performed a song called “Real Gone” from the film “Cars,” which he said was his go-to choice once he’d heard about that week’s theme. The outlet reported him as saying, “When I started playing it, all the memories came back of watching that movie and hearing it in the opening scenes when they were going around that track.”
“American Idol” Judge Katy Perry described the performance as “infectious,” exclaiming that the song choice was “great for [Kennedy].” The other judges seconded those sentiments. Kennedy advanced two additional weeks before leaving the competition on May 13.
The Top 4 on “American Idol” will next perform Sunday, May 16, on ABC. The show will air at 8 p.m. Eastern time, 5 p.m. Pacific time.