‘American Idol’: Why Did Finalist Caleb Kennedy Drop Out of the Competition?

by Taylor Cunningham

During American Idol’s 19th season, Caleb Kennedy was primed to be one of the last standing competitors—if not the winner. But after a controversial social media post surfaced mid-run, he was forced to exit the TV series.

Before forfeiting, Kennedy made it all the way to the top 5 by showing off his country singing skills and earning the respect of millions of fans. But it wasn’t just the audience that fell in love with his twangy crooning. The judges were also constantly impressed with his performances and believed that he could eventually take home the crown.

However, on May 12th, 2021, Kennedy surprised fans with an Instagram post explaining that he was no longer a part of the show.

“Hey, y’all, this is going to be a bit of a surprise,” he wrote. “But I am no longer going to be on American Idol.

The ‘American Idol’ Producers Promptly Erased Kennedy From the Series Upon Learning of the Video Clip

Apparently, some fans found a short clip on TikTok that showed Caleb Kennedy with a man who was wearing a KKK hood.

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

After apologizing to “everyone” that he “let down,” the singer said he would be taking time off of social media to “better” himself.

His mother, Anita Guy, told the Herald-Journal. That she hated how her son was “being portrayed by people online.” She claimed that Caleb and his friends had just watched The Strangers: Prey at Night prior to making the clip. 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,” she continued. “He loves everyone and has friends of all races.”

Later, it was revealed that the decision to leave American Idol wasn’t actually up to Kennedy. Upon learning about the video, the producers disqualified the singer. Then, they immediately erased him from the show, meaning they deleted all of his YouTube highlights and scrubbed him from the series website.

“We grow up, and we make mistakes,” judge Lionel Richie commented after the exit. “And we look at our lives behind us many, many times. And we say, ‘God, what was I thinking about when I did that?’ This is one of those situations.”