May 3, 2008 / 2:33 AM / 11 years ago

Country star Rich infuriated by Abdul's "Idol" antics

Kenny Alphin (L) and John Rich of Big and Rich perform "Loud" at the 41st annual Country Music Awards in Nashville, Tennessee November 7, 2007. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Country artist and upcoming “Nashville Star” judge John Rich laid into “American Idol” judge Paula Abdul for her lack of attentiveness during a recent episode.

“‘American Idol’ infuriates me as an artist,” Rich, of the multiplatinum country duo Big & Rich, said at an NBC press event in Pasadena, California. “They’re being fake about it. When you can’t make a cognizant comment about someone’s performance and you’re commenting on something that happened the day before, why don’t you just walk up onstage and slap them right across the face while you’re at it? As an artist, I would just flip them the bird and walk off the stage. ... She wasn’t even paying attention to what was going on.”

The gaffe by Abdul, who critiqued a contestant’s performance that she saw only in rehearsal and which did not air, has been the biggest “Idol” controversy this season. But the incident seemingly has had little impact on the show’s ratings — which have been down 10 percent overall this season, though recent episodes have hit five-year lows.

“The reason their ratings are going into the toilet right now is because the American public cannot stand when it comes to reality,” Rich said. “You can tell when somebody’s comment was scripted. You can tell when they told an artist, ‘Wear this, and sing that, and do that.’ That’s not the way it’s going to work on this show,” he said of “Nashville Star.”

Rich was on a panel promoting the NBC show during the network’s summer programming event for the press. He is a judge and mentor on the upcoming sixth season of the show, which has moved from USA Network to NBC this year.

“We have to respect the fans’ ears and eyes and give them something that’s for real,” he added. “Don’t try to con them. And I think that’s why ‘American Idol,’ in my opinion, is just dive-bombing. I can’t stand watching it. I wouldn’t want to be on that show now if you gave me a $100 bill.”

In response to Rich’s comments, Fox released a statement: “John Rich’s ungentlemanly and opportunistic comments are particularly disturbing considering the fact he attended a taping of ‘American Idol’ last April, told producers, judges and performers he enjoyed himself and also did an interview with a crew from ‘American Idol Extra’ where he was extremely complimentary toward the show.”

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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