Dolly Parton Reveals Why She Turned Down Donald Trump's Presidential Medal of Freedom Offer Twice

Dolly Parton already has just about every award the country music industry could offer, so the next obvious honor for her would be the Presidential Medal of Freedom. However, the country music legend revealed she turned down President Donald Trump's offer to receive the nation's highest honor twice during his administration. Parton, 75, said her decision was not political, but it just never worked out.

"I couldn't accept it because my husband [Carl Dean] was ill and then they asked me again about it and I wouldn't travel because of the COVID," Parton said on Today Monday. She mentioned that President Joe Biden has also discussed giving her the honor as well, but she is still a little unsure about accepting. "Now I feel like if I take it, I'll be doing politics, so I'm not sure," she explained. "But I don't work for those awards."

Parton said it would be "nice" to receive such a high honor, but she is not sure she would deserve it. "It's a nice compliment for people to think that I might deserve it," she said. Today anchor Hoda Kotb assured Parton that everyone thinks she has earned the honor. After all, she donated $1 million to help fund Vanderbilt University's coronavirus research, which resulted in the Moderna vaccine. The Dolly Parton's Imagination Library has also donated over 100 million children's books since she established it in 1995. Parton has clearly made a lasting impact outside the country music world that would qualify her for the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In December, former President Barack Obama admitted that one of his biggest mistakes was not honoring Parton. During a segment on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the host asked Obama questions he was sure Obama had never been asked before. One of those was why Parton did not get the Medal of Freedom. "That's a mistake. I'm shocked," he told Colbert. He later added, "That was a screw-up. I assumed that she had already got one and that was incorrect. I'm surprised. She deserves one." Obama said he would call Biden, who served as his vice president for eight years, to make sure he fixes that mistake.


The Presidential Medal of Freedom was established in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy. Obama presented 118 medals during his time in office, including several to musicians. Yo-Yo Ma, Bob Dylan, Loretta Lynn, Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan, James Taylor, Barbra Streisand, and Bruce Springsteen all received one during the Obama Administration. Trump presented 24 during his time one term, but the only musician he selected was Elvis Presley, who died in 1977.