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“American Idol” judges Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie discussed former contestant Caleb Kennedy’s exit from the show for the first time during a virtual press conference after Sunday night’s semi-final episode.
Last week, a source close to the show told Insider that Kennedy would not be moving forward with the show after a video showing him seated next to a person wearing a white hood reminiscent of the covering worn by the Ku Klux Klan surfaced online.
“First and foremost, as judges, we love these kids,” Bryan told People magazine.
“We get emotionally involved in these kids. We want the best for Caleb. As far as the nuances on how ABC gets viewed, either way, decisions got made and it’s our job as judges to show up and do our best job and comment on the kids who are in front of us. But we wish nothing but the best for Caleb. It does make for a very, very challenging and upsetting week.”
Fellow judge Lionel Richie added: “A lot of times, we think about it, we grow up and we make mistakes and we look at our life behind us many times and we say, ‘God, what was I thinking about when I did that?’ This was one of those situations where we kind of give him a big hug from the three of us.”
He continued: “He definitely has talent. The problem is, this is one of those unfortunate decisions that had to be made and we move on. But this will be remembered in his lifetime and he’ll know what it’s all about.”
The video of Kennedy was shared on Twitter by internet reporter Def Noodles. It shows Kennedy filming someone wearing a hood that is associated with the Klan, an American white supremacist terrorist group dating back to the 19th century that is known for targeting Black people among other minority groups.
Last week, Kennedy, who is a 16-year-old sophomore from South Carolina, apologized for the video while announcing his departure from the talent show.
“Hey y’all this is gonna be a bit of a surprise, but I am no longer going to be on American Idol,” Kennedy wrote. “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.”
Later in the week, Kennedy’s mother gave a statement to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal in which she said the video was made when the singer was 12 years old. She also said the video was not made in reference to the KKK but rather the movie “The Strangers: Prey at Night.”
“It had nothing to do with the Ku Klux Klan, but I know that’s how it looks,” she said. “Caleb doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. He loves everyone and has friends of all races.”