Also from ToledoBlade:
Jay Leno was put in the awkward position Tuesday night of having to listen to guest Bill Maher put down country music, minutes before Rodney Atkins made his debut on the "Tonight Show."
Maher rambled on about the Dixie Chicks and what a good album they had and how it deserved all the Grammys it received. He then added that "the only use I have for country music is to make fun of it."
The comment got absolutely no response from the audience, and Leno looked extremely uncomfortable.
Atkins later took the stage and performed "Watching You," his recent No. 1. He wanted to respond directly to Maher, but instead sang, then released a statement after the show. "I was proud to sing a song about family values, my life, and what this format is all about. This guy was purposely bashing Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Martina McBride, Dolly Parton, and all the great artists that influenced my life’s direction. ... Everyone does have the freedom of speech, but they should sometimes think before they actually exercise that right."
Leno apologized to Atkins and invited him back, saying, "You are a class act." "