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Country Music Association Tells Journalists Not to Talk About Guns, Politics or Las Vegas

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Brad Paisley performed in Nashville earlier this year.

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Laura Roberts/Invision, via Associated Press

The country music industry just learned the same lesson the National Football League and others have: No matter how much some people may wish for it, there’s no escape from politics.

The organizers of the 52nd Annual Country Music Association Awards, one of the industry’s biggest events, hoped to keep the focus on the music during its show on Nov. 8, and not on the 58 people who were killed and the 527 who were injured when Stephen Paddock opened fire at a country music festival in Las Vegas barely more than a month ago.

To do that, the organizers of the awards show threatened to revoke the credentials of journalists on the red carpet and backstage who direct coverage to “the Las Vegas tragedy, gun rights, political affiliations or topics of the like.”

“It’s vital, more so this year than in years past due to the sensitivities at hand, that the CMA Awards be a celebration of country music and the artists that make this genre so great,” the guidelines said, as reported by Nashville Scene. “It’s an evening to honor the outstanding achievements in country music of the previous year and we want everyone to feel comfortable talking to press about this exciting time.”

The effort to decouple music from politics angered journalists, who, as a general rule, do not appreciate being told what to focus on by the people they’re covering. But Brad Paisley, the country music star who is hosting the awards next week with Carrie Underwood, agreed with the criticism, calling the rules “ridiculous and unfair.”

Mr. Paisley’s words turned out to be prescient. The organization backtracked and apologized on Friday afternoon, saying in a statement that it would lift the restrictions.

“The sentiment was not to infringe and was created with the best of intentions to honor and celebrate Country music,” the organization said.

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