'American Idol' judges Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie react to Caleb Kennedy's controversial video, abrupt exit

Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie ponder how to fare on American Idol finalist Caleb Kennedy. (Photo: Getty Images)
American Idol Judges Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie have broken their silence over Caleb Kennedy's sudden exit.
Kennedy, a 16-year-old fan favorite, confirmed he would be leaving the show before the finale after a video surfaced showing him sitting next to someone who appeared to be wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood. Bryan told people it was "a very, very challenging and exciting week".
"First and foremost, as judges, we love these children," said the 44-year-old country star. (Kennedy was the only country contestant in the top five this season.) "We're emotionally committed to these kids. We want the best for Caleb. As for the nuances of how ABC is viewed, one way or another, decisions have been made and... it is ours. " Job as a judge to show up and do our best job and comment on the kids that stand in front of us. But we wish Caleb the best. "
Richie, 71, added, “Often we think about it, we grow up and we make mistakes. We often look at our lives behind us and say, 'God, what was I thinking about when I did this?' This was one those situations where the three of us hug him. "
In a statement last Wednesday, Kennedy said the video "showed actions that should not be done this way".
"I was younger and didn't think about the actions, but that's no excuse," wrote the South Carolina singer. "I want to apologize to all of my fans and everyone I've let down. I'll take a little time on social media to improve, but when I say that I know it hurts and disappoints a lot of people and Made people lose respect for me. I'm so sorry! "
Richie noted that Kennedy "definitely has a talent".
"The problem is, this is one of those unfortunate decisions that had to be made and we're moving on," continued the legendary singer-songwriter. "But he will remember that in his life and he will know what it is about."
Although Kennedy was eliminated ahead of Sunday's live show, no former candidate took his place. The remaining four semi-finalists Chayce Beckham, Casey Bishop, Grace Kinstler and Willie Spence all sang their hearts out, but this resulted in a shocking elimination. Bishop, who was Bryan's choice to win everything, was sent home. The American Idol Finals will air on ABC next week.
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