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An American Idol contestant has left the talent show after footage emerged of him sitting next to someone wearing a white hood.
Network ABC confirmed that country music singer Caleb Kennedy, 16, who made it to the final five, has left the show.
He apologised over the video, which was taken when he was 12 and drew comparisons to the Ku Klux Klan.
In his statement online announcing his departure, Kennedy said: “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. I wanna say sorry to all my fans and everyone who I have let down.
“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.”
He added: “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.”
An update from me, about American Idol. https://t.co/uuHc2sSiM4 — Caleb Kennedy (@Caleb Kennedy)
Kennedy’s mother, Anita Guy, told a local newspaper in South Carolina her son was not racist and the white hood was inspired by 2018 horror film The Strangers: Prey At Night.
But, reacting to the footage, people on social media criticised Kennedy for his actions:
@calebkennedy maybe don't sit next to people wearing KKK hoods?????? — queirdo (@queirdo)
However, some thought that allowances should have been made given he was young when the video was taken:
@calebkennedy The kid is 16. Let's go back in time and pull up all the stupid crap any of you all have done as a m… https://t.co/DBgOOiqRVF — SouthernKaren (@SouthernKaren)
Kennedy impressed American Idol judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie with songs including Midnight Train To Memphis by Chris Stapleton and On the Road Again by Willie Nelson.