American Idol judges Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie broke their silence on Idol contestant Caleb Kennedy’s departure, four days after a controversial video surfaced online.
Following Sunday night’s semi-finals, Bryan and Richie shared that they are very emotional about Kennedy’s departure but they do wish him the best.
“First and foremost, as judges, we love these kids,” Bryan told PEOPLE following Sunday night’s Idol. “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.”
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 has definitely has a 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,” Richie later said.
Kennedy departed from Idol after a controversial video surfaced online, which allegedly shows Kennedy sitting on a couch next to someone wearing assumed racist attire. The brief 3-second clip first appeared on Kennedy’s Snapchat of him sitting next to someone that was wearing a white KKK hood with a caption that reads, “bow, oh my.”
The former Idol contestant addressed the situation in a statement on his Twitter that read, “Hey y’all, this is gonna be a bit of a surprise, but I am no longer gonna be on American Idol.” Kennedy continued, “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.”
The South Carolina native then apologized to his supporters and everyone who has voted for him during his Idol journey.
“I wanna say sorry to all my fans and everyone who I have let down,” Kennedy added. “I’ll be taking a little time off social media to better myself, but saying that, 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! Thank you for supporting me.”
His departure also prompted a response from Kennedy’s mom Anita Guy, who “Caleb doesn’t have a racist bone in his body, He loves everyone and has friends of all races.”
“I hate this has happened and how Caleb is being portrayed by people online,” Guy continued to explain to the Herald-Journal. “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.”
No official statement has been released by American Idol as of yet and Idol judge Katy Perry has not commented on the situation.