‘American Idol’ Judges Break Silence on Contestant’s Abrupt Departure

by Jacklyn Krol

American Idol judges spoke out about contestant Caleb Kennedy’s sudden exit.

On Sunday (May 17), Luke Bryan, Lionel Richie, and Katy Perry addressed the abrupt departure. Kennedy left the show after a video of him next to a person in a KKK hood surfaced on social media last week.

The show went on and instead of the Top 5, the Top 4 took the stage. The episode featured a single elimination instead of the typical double elimination.

“First and foremost, as judges, we love these kids,” Bryan told People. “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.”

Bryan told Entertainment Tonight that they care for “every aspect of their growth.” He concluded that his thoughts are with him as he grows as both a person and an artist.

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.”

Richie confirmed that he has talent but it is an unfortunate decision that had to be made.

American Idol Shakeups

Aside from Kennedy’s departure from American Idol another contestant left the show earlier in the season. Former contestant Wyatt Pike left the show during the Top 12 round.

“I have to tell you that finalist Wyatt Pike will not be competing in the competition,” host Ryan Seacrest told the audience. “He had to drop out. But we wish him the very best.”

Following the sudden announcement, Pike somewhat addressed his departure on social media. He revealed that he left the show due to “personal reasons.” He wished the other contestants good luck. Pike updated his Instagram account and shared videos and photos of him in a recording studio with friends.

Judge Luke Bryan also had to miss filming after testing positive for COVID-19. He returned to the stage the night of the 2021 ACM Awards in which he virtually took home the coveted Entertainer of the Year award.