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Caleb Kennedy Leaves Show After Racist Clip Resurfaces

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Caleb Kennedy, a 16-year-old country singer, left American Idol after a video surfaced of him sitting next to someone wearing KKK hoodie.

Caleb Kennedy has left American Idol following the surfacing of a racist KKK-themed video. The 16-year-old country singer was one of five contestants remaining on the season.

Caleb is the second finalist to leave the competition early this season, following Wyatt Pike, who cited “personal reasons.” The departure of Caleb comes at a time when many shows are overhauling the way they cast and film to be more racially inclusive and highlight more diverse stories. American Idol had largely been able to dodge much of the criticism; their past stars and judges have, for the most part, stayed away from controversy and kept the brand alive, though it will never return to the level of popularity it had in the 2000s. This season, however, allowing Claudia Conway, the daughter of former spokeswoman under the Donald Trump administration Kellyanne Conway, on the show brought a heavy amount of criticism.

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Related: American Idol: Judge Katy Perry’s Biggest Scandals & Dramas Explained

After a video surfaced on Wednesday of Caleb sitting next to someone who appears to be wearing a Kl Klux Klan hood, he announced he would no longer be on the show. He wrote on Instagram, “Hey y’all, this is gonna be a bit of a surprise but I am no longer gonna be on ‘American Idol.’” He said he did not think about the actions since he was “younger” though he admitted that’s not an excuse.

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Caleb added, “I wanna say sorry to all my fans and everyone who I have let down.” He said he understood how hurtful his actions were and ended with, “I’m so sorry! I pray that I can one day regain your trust in who I am and have your respect! Thank you for supporting me.” The finalists still in the competition are Willie Spence, Grace Kinstler, Chayce Beckham and Casey Bishop. Only one will be eliminated on this Sunday’s episode.

No matter how old someone is, they should be held accountable for racist actions. Fortunately, Caleb, whose voice gave every indication he’d be on the radio someday, is young and has plenty of time to grow and learn from this experience. Country music as a whole is facing a reckoning on the racist actions of some of its stars. Caleb will likely still get an opportunity to be famous, and being cut from American Idol so late in the competition isn’t the worst thing that can happen to someone. Hopefully, if he does make it big, he can be a part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

Next: American Idol: Hunter’s Elimination Leaves Fans Shocked & Disappointed

American Idol airs Sundays at 8pm EST on ABC.

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