American Idol's Top 5 contestants were suddenly narrowed down to the Top 4 after news broke Wednesday that contestant Caleb Kennedy had abruptly exited the ABC singing competition. The 16-year-old rising star left the show after a video resurfaced depicting him next to someone wearing what appears to be a Ku Klux Klan hood, though his mother, Anita Guy, told the Herald-Journal the video isn’t all that it seems.
Addressing the three-second clip just after news broke of her son's dismissal from Idol, Guy told the outlet the video was taken when her son was just 12. Although she acknowledged the white hood seen in the video was similar to the ones worn by Ku Klux Klan members, she said it was actually an imitation of characters from The Strangers: Prey at Night, which her son and his friend had just watched. The video was recorded around the time the film and V for Vendetta were popular, and Guy said Kennedy enjoyed both of these movies and even dressed up as the main character in V for Vendetta for Halloween in seventh grade. She denied claims that her son is racist.
"I hate this has happened and how Caleb is being portrayed by people online," Guy said. "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. Caleb doesn't have a racist bone in his body. He loves everyone and has friends of all races."
In his own statement addressing the controversy, Kennedy said the video "displayed actions that were not meant to be taken in that way," adding that he "was younger and did not think about the actions." Still, the teen said "that's not an excuse" and apologized "to all my fans and everyone who I have let down…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!” Kennedy said that amid his exit, he will be taking a little time off social media to better myself."
An Idol spokesperson told PEOPLE "American Idol contestant Caleb Kennedy will no longer be moving forward in the competition." Kennedy had been among the Top 5 contestants remaining on the show. Amid his departure, the spokesperson said "Sunday's episode will feature the Top 4 with one contestant elimination." New episodes of American Idol airs Sundays and Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. The episodes can also be watched for free on FuboTV or on Hulu With Live TV with a free trial. For all of the latest Idol updates, stay tuned to PopCulture!