On Tuesday, as the House of Representatives was voting to impeach Donald Trump for the second time, the President held a closed press ceremony presenting Ricky Skaggs and Toby Keith with the National Medal of the Arts. Keith's representative has not commented on the award, but Skaggs' representative told The Boot that the 66-year-old was initially supposed to receive the honor, the highest in the nation for the arts, last year.
Skaggs' representative confirmed that the musician was in Washington, D.C., to accept the award but added that the ceremony was originally scheduled for early 2020 and was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. An Instagram post from former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer shared that in additional Skaggs and Keith, medals were also awarded to opera and theater star Mary Costa, longtime director of the National Gallery of Art Earl Powell III and wartime photojournalist Nick Ut.
U.S. Presidents typically award around 10 to 12 National Medals of the Arts during their terms, and Trump had previously awarded just four, one of which went to bluegrass-country singer Alison Krauss. As Skaggs and Keith were receiving their medals, the House was voting in favor of impeaching Trump, charging him with "incitement of insurrection" in regards to the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Keith has previously identified as an Independent and performed at Trump's inauguration in 2017. Skaggs has been vocally supportive of the President, saying in 2016, via Billboard, "I believe Donald Trump is the right person in the right place, and that it’s prophetic."
Earlier this week, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who has previously spoken about his friendship with Trump, declined the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which he was scheduled to receive from POTUS on Thursday.
"Recently, I was offered the opportunity to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which I was flattered by out of respect for what the honor represents and admiration for prior recipients," Belichick said in a statement, via CNN, noting that the riot at the Capitol was the reason for his decision. "Subsequently, the tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award."
"Above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our nation's values, freedom and democracy," he continued. "I know I also represent my family and the New England Patriots team."