John Rich, Chely WrightJohn Rich has responded to a story told by Chely Wright in her new book, 'Like Me,' that some might argue paints him in a very unflattering light. Chely, who recently came out to PEOPLE, tells 'Access Hollywood' that when John (with whom she had performed in an Opryland show years ago) asked her point blank if she was gay, she lied to avoid embarrassment.

"[John] said, 'You're not gay are you?'" Chely recalls. "I said, 'No, John, I'm not.' He said, 'Good, thank God.' And that began a spiral for me ... I had a meltdown shortly after that."

Chely revealed to 'Today' that she nearly committed suicide over the secret life she was living, admitting that she "had a 9 millimeter gun in my mouth."

John is now offering his apologies for a conversation he insists was misconstrued. "I would never pass judgment on any friend of mine," John tells 'Access Hollywood.' "I feel awful that, at this time in Chely's life, my decade old comment -- 'Good, thank God' -- was taken the wrong way. I was clumsily trying to express my relief that even a country boy like me had a one-in-a-million chance of having a beer with a woman as talented and attractive as Chely."

But Chely also claims that during this same conversation, John called homosexuality "sick ... deviant ... and unacceptable to country music fans," though it's not clear whether he was expressing his own opinion or warning her of what many country fans would think if she were to come out. Regardless, John is questioning the timing of Chely's re-telling of the story.

"For years after that conversation, Chely invited me to perform at charity events," he says. "In all that time, I wish she would have said something directly to me before the book's publicity tour, especially since some of the comments attributed to me in the book are not mine. But I am happy for her and only wish her the best in her personal and professional life."

Chely isn't buying his explanation completely, though, partly due to John's history of expressing his conservative views on homosexuality. Back in 2007, he made remarks opposing gay marriage on a Nashville-based talk radio show ... comments met with bad publicity and outcry from the gay community. Chely doubts he's changed his tune since then and questions his apology. "I think he sees what it feels like to take on the gays, and he didn't like it," she tells "And I think he may not want to take this on. So he may say, 'Um, I love Chely. I can love the sinner, hate the sin.' He may say that. I don't have to believe it."