Dolly Parton says she turned down Trump's offer of the Presidential Medal of Freedom - twice

Dolly Parton says she turned down Trump's offer of the Presidential Medal of Freedom - twice
The Biden administration has also reached out to Parton about the Medal of Freedom but she told The Today Show she doesn't want to be perceived as "doing politics."Debra L Rothenberg/Getty Images
  • The country music legend told The Today Show that Trump offered her the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice.
  • Both times she turned it down, citing family illness and COVID.
  • The Biden administration has also approached her about the award, but she said she didn't want to be perceived as "doing politics."

Dolly Parton revealed to The Today Show that she was offered the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former President Donald Trump on two separate occasions but had to beg off both times.

"I couldn't accept it because my husband was ill and then they asked me again about it and I wouldn't travel because of the COVID," she told host Hoda Kotb.

Parton is much beloved for both her musical career and the many charity projects she's undertaken in recent years. In November, she donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University to support coronavirus vaccine research. She previously gave $1 million to Vanderbilt to help fund its Monroe Carell Jr. Vanderbilt Children's Hospital.



Perhaps her best-known charity project is her Imagination Library, a charity she founded in 1990 that provides one free book a month to children from birth until adulthood. In the early months of the pandemic, she used the Imagination Library platform to read bedtime stories to kids who were out of school.

Trump isn't the only president hoping to offer Parton a Medal of Freedom. The eight-time Grammy winner told Today that the new administration has reached out to her, but that she was worried about how receiving the award from Biden might be perceived.

"Now I feel like if I take it, I'll be doing politics, so I'm not sure," she said.

In a 2020 Stephen Colbert interview with former President Barack Obama, Obama said it was a "mistake" that his office hadn't offered Parton the honor.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom was established in 1945 and is the country's highest civilian honor. It is awarded for "especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, or cultural or other significant public or private endeavors," according to the National Archives.

Trump handed out 24 Presidential Medals of Freedom during his term, though the late Elvis Presley was the only other musician to receive one. Rush Limbaugh, Tiger Woods, and Rep. Jim Jordan were among those honored by the former president.

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick was also offered the award but turned it down following the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.