Idol finalist uses slur, apology clarifies who he was using it against (not his fans)

American Idol top four finalist Caleb Johnson used a derogatory term for people with intellectual disabilities to refer to people who communicate with him on social media, and then apologized for the “wrong choice of words”–but mostly wanted to make sure people knew he was using it not to refer to his fans and the people who will vote to keep him in the competition, but instead was directed at “wackos” who send “hate messages.”

In an After Buzz TV interview posted Friday, host Jason Ikeler read fan questions to Calbe, because the Andy Cohen model is now standard for journalism, and one was about social media. Caleb said,

“It gives access to a bunch of retards to talk to me and, uh, I don’t really enjoy having to see somebody tell me what song I have to sing. I think at this point of the competition I can pick and choose my own songs and represent me the best. But I don’t need 10,000 people saying, ‘You should sing this, you should sing that, listen to me, listen to me.’ Fortunately, guys, I’m going to listen to myself, whether you like it or not.”

If you’re not clear on why that word is considered a slur, read this and then read this. Also, the real problem here is not that he insulted his fans. Sheesh.

Caleb posted an note on Facebook late Saturday night that said:

“For the record that juvenile comment I made in the interview was not directed towards my fans but to the wackos that send hundreds of hate messages a day to me ! You guys are amazing and I cannot thank you enough for your support. Sorry if it offended anybody it was the wrong choice of words . Also I greatly appreciate it when you guys give me song suggestions but it gets really overwhelming at the volume it comes in so please understand ! Rock on !:)”

Also in the interview, he said other things that suggest he’s not too cautious about the things he says. When Caleb mentioned that he’s just one step away from hometown visits, the interviewer Jason Ikeler inexplicably and stupidly said, “and then you get like the parade, and all the girls.” Caleb jumped on that and added: “the girls, the hookers, the cocaine.”

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.