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Here’s what happened:
Ryan Seacrest asked Caleb how the contestants were dealing with the stress of the competition. Caleb responded by saying they were having fun, pulling pranks – one of which was putting peanuts in peanut-allergic, fellow contestant Alex’s socks.
I broke my own no-talking rule and blurted out, “I can’t believe he just said that!”
Caleb immediately back-tracked saying, “That’s just a joke.” And I believe it was. Caleb comes across as an easy-going, fun-loving guy who always has a smile on his face. He’s the kind of guy who will take the microphone away from Ryan Seacrest and upstage him (yeah, that happened too.)
And I must give Caleb credit for apologizing for his food allergy comment on Thursday night. I presume from his apology that Caleb now understands that food allergies should never be joked about – that they are serious and can be life-threatening. A joke about food allergies is never funny.
If an American Idol contestant were in a wheelchair, no one would joke about pushing him or her down the stairs because that would just be mean (even criminal) and you could (ahem) die from it. Exactly.
Now I’m going to cut Caleb some slack because I don’t believe he meant any harm and by all accounts the prank didn’t actually happen. Ryan Seacrest put him on the spot; Caleb’s comment was off the cuff. And he’s young. But still… he’s an American Idol. Millions of Americans are watching, including many young kids.
So here’s what else I would say to Caleb:
You chose to put yourself in the spotlight. As an American Idol, there are millions of kids looking up to you. You are a role model and that means that you must behave responsibly.
There is a child with food allergies somewhere (perhaps millions of them) who didn't sleep Wednesday night for fear that they could be bullied due to their food allergies.
I hope that none of your fans take your comment as a green light to pull a similar prank. I hope that the kids watching gasped as loudly as I did because they have a friend, or a sibling, or a classmate (there are approximately two children in every classroom) with food allergies and that they understand the seriousness of the disease.
Most importantly, I hope that you think for a few seconds before you make fun of anyone (for any reason) ever again.