Home News American Idol Judges Break Silence on Caleb Kennedy’s Departure Days After Controversial...

American Idol Judges Break Silence on Caleb Kennedy’s Departure Days After Controversial Video Surfaced

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The American Idol judges are breaking their silence four days after top five contestant Caleb Kennedy exited the show due to a leaked controversial video.

After Sunday’s emotional semi-final episode, judges Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie expressed their feelings on Kennedy’s sudden departure — and what they hope for the young singer in the future.

“First and foremost, as judges, we love these kids,” Bryan, 44, told PEOPLE after the show. “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, 71, then said, “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,” he added.

RELATED: Wyatt Pike Drops Out of American Idol After Making It into the Season’s Top 12

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Christopher Willard/abc Caleb Kennedy

Kennedy exited the show after a controversial video featuring the South Carolina native surfaced online, in which he can be seen hanging out with a friend wearing a white hood similar to the ones worn by Ku Klux Klan members.

In a statement shared to his Instagram on Wednesday, Kennedy addressed the video, saying that 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,” he said. “I wanna say sorry to all my fans and everyone who I let down.”

Matt Stroshane/abc Caleb Kennedy

Kennedy, 16, also said that he will “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!” Kennedy added. “I pray that I can one day regain your trust in who I am and have your respect! Thank you for supporting me.”

During Sunday’s episode of the ABC singing competition show, America said goodbye to 16-year-old Casey Bishop — leaving Willie Spence, Grace Kinstler, and Chayce Beckham left fighting for a chance at being the next American Idol.

ABC Casey Bishop

While this marked the end of Bishop’s Idol journey, judge Katy Perry said the young singer has a bright future ahead.

“She’s going to be fine!” Perry told PEOPLE.

“@thecaseybishop you’re a true rockstar,” Bryan later wrote on Twitter. “this is just the beginning for you! Walk out of here with your head very high.”

Luke Combs, Macklemore, Fall Out Boy and Fleetwood Mac‘s Lindsey Buckingham will hit the stage for special performances at Sunday, May 23’s Idol finale. Chaka Khan, Mickey Guyton, Leona Lewis, Alessia Cara, Sheryl Crow and Idol judges Katy Perry, Bryan and Richie will also hit the stage.

American Idol‘s finale is set to air on Sunday, May 23 at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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