“American Idol” finalist Caleb Kennedy said he is no longer a contestant on the hit ABC show after a video showing him next to someone cloaked in a Ku Klux Klan-style hood started circulating online.
“Hey y’all, this is gonna be a bit of a surprise but I am no longer gonna be on American Idol,” the 16-year-old aspiring singer and guitarist said in a statement he shared on social media 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 said in the statement. “I was younger and did not think about the actions, but that’s not an excuse.”
The family of the former contestant, a high school student from Roebuck, South Carolina, said the video was made when he was 12 years old, the Herald-Journal in nearby Spartanburg reported Wednesday.
A video clip being shared online shows him briefly filming himself before panning to another person sitting next to him wearing a white hood similar to the kind worn by members of the Ku Klux Klan.
“I hate this has happened and how Caleb is being portrayed by people online,” said his mother, Anita Guy, the Herald-Journal reported. “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.”
The teenager apologized to his fans in the statement announcing his departure from the show and said that he would be “taking a little time off social media” to better himself.
“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!” he said.
A source close to the series confirmed it will be moving forward without the teen. The program is currently in its 19th season.