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Dolly Parton says she was offered the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice but didn't accept it

Dolly Parton helped fund COVID-19 vaccine research
Dolly Parton helped fund Moderna COVID-19 vaccine research 00:29

Dolly Parton has never been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom – a fact that "shocked" former President Barack Obama, who missed an opportunity to give her one. However, the country superstar revealed on Tuesday she has been offered the award – twice, by the Trump administration. 

In December, Mr. Obama said during an appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" that it was a mistake not to award Parton the Presidential Medal of Freedom while he was in office.

"That was a screw-up. I'm surprised," Mr. Obama said. "I think I assumed that she had already got one, and that was incorrect. She deserves one. I'll call Biden."

When asked on Tuesday if she's heard yet from President Biden, Parton told NBC's "Today" that she actually has. 

"To be honest, in all fairness, I got offered the freedom award from the Trump administration," Parton said. "I couldn't accept it because my husband was ill. Then they asked me again about it and I wouldn't travel because of the COVID." 

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

The music icon and philanthropist created The Dollywood Foundation in 1988, which focuses on literacy and education in her home county of Sevier County, Tennessee. 

Parton's giving has gone global. In November, it was revealed that she helped fund research for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna.

Parton made a $1 million contribution toward coronavirus research efforts at Vanderbilt University in April.

Recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation's highest civilian honor — are often people who have made contributions to U.S. interests, world peace or cultural endeavors. Some of Mr. Obama's recipients included Ellen DeGeneres, Stevie Wonder and Rep. John Lewis. 

Some of Mr. Trump's recipients included retiring Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Alan Page, who was elected to the Minnesota Supreme Court after an NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears, and posthumously Elvis Presley, Babe Ruth and Antonin Scalia. 

Earlier this year, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick announced he declined to accept a Presidential Medal of Freedom from Mr. Trump, citing last month's deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol. 

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