John Rich infuriated by Abdul's 'Idol' antics

Country star criticizes her lack of attentiveness

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 said of the multiplatinum country duo Big & Rich. "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 where she critiqued a contestant's performance that she saw only in rehearsal has been the biggest "Idol" controversy this season. But the incident has seemingly had little impact on the show's ratings -- which have been down 10% 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."

Rich was on a panel promoting NBC's "Nashville" during the network's summer programming press event in Pasadena. 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."

UPDATE: In response to Rich's comments, Fox released this statement: "John Rich's ungentlemanly and opportunistic comments towards Paula and 'American Idol' are particularly disturbing considering the fact he attended a taping of the show 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 towards the show."