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‘American Idol’ Judges React to Caleb Kennedy’s ‘Devastating’ Exit

A surprise to all. Caleb Kennedy shocked fans last week when he announced that he would not be returning to American Idol following a resurfaced video in which he sat next to someone who appeared to be wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit.

Related: 'American Idol' Judges Through the Years and Why They Left

“Well losing great talent is always [hard] … this is our class. This is the class of 2021. So, you know, it was an unfortunate situation,” judge Lionel Richie told Entertainment Tonight after the Sunday, May 16, episode. “We had to ride with what’s happening with ABC, and you know that’s where we play. So you know we wish him all the best, but that was just one of those unfortunate things that happen along the way of life.”

American Idol Judges React to Caleb Kennedy Devastating Exit 3
Caleb Kennedy ABC/Eric McCandless

The singer, 16, announced his exit via Instagram on Wednesday, May 12, following the video — which was reportedly filmed when he was 12 years old — going viral on social media.

Related: Shocking Reality TV Exits

“Hey y’all, this is gonna be a bit of a surprise but I am no longer gonna be on American Idol,” Kennedy wrote in a statement at the time. “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.”

American Idol Judges React to Caleb Kennedy Devastating Exit 2
Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan. ABC/Eric McCandless

Judge Luke Bryan also commented on the shocking departure, sending the South Carolina native the best.

“You know, we love these kids, we love every aspect of their growth and all of this, but it’s certainly devastating news when we hear about this,” the country star, 44, said. “But like we said, our thoughts will be with him as he grows as an artist.”

Related: 'American Idol' Winners: Where Are They Now?

While Sunday’s show was set to include a double elimination, it instead featured the final four — Grace Kinstler, Chayce Beckham, Willie Spence and Casey Bishop — performing, followed by only one artist being sent home: 16-year-old Bishop.

American Idol Judges React to Caleb Kennedy Devastating Exit 4
Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Caleb Kennedy. ABC/Eric McCandless

“Casey is one of my favorites,” judge Katy Perry told ET. “It’s amazing seeing her growth and her potential, and her stage presence. And I think she’s a real MVP. … I don’t think it’s the end of the road for her. She’s not going to win American Idol, but I think she’s going to win at life. Mark my words.”

American Idol airs on ABC Sundays at 8 p.m. ET.

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