Dolly Parton turned down the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice

Dolly Parton revealed that she turned down the offer from former President Donald Trump, but not because of him

Dolly Parton
(Image credit: Shirlaine Forrest / Getty Images)

Country icon Dolly Parton has revealed that she turned down the medal of freedom from former President Donald Trump on two occasions. 

The Trump administration offered the "Joelene" singer the honor for her incredible and storied career as a singer, songwriter, actor, and performer.

Dolly became ora folk hero during the pandemic when it was revealed that her donation of $1 million to the research and development of the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19.

Following her generous donation, Dolly told the BBC last year, "I'm sure many, many millions of dollars from many people went into that but I felt so proud to have been part of that little seed money that hopefully will grow into something great and help to heal this world. Lord knows we need it!"

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Dolly revealed that she refused the award because of practical reasons instead of making a politically motivated statement about the Trump administration.

"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," Dolly said on The Today Show.

She then revealed that she has now been offered the award again from Biden's administration but felt reluctant to accept the prize if the public viewed her actions as political. 

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

Dolly has remained politically neutral throughout her entire career. She said in 2019 on the biographical podcast Dolly Parton's America, "I have too many fans on both sides of the fence. Of course, I have my opinion, but I learned years ago to keep my mouth shut about things."

The Today Show hosts brought up the topic of Dolly receiving a medal of freedom because of a comment made by former President Barack Obama last year. 

In an interview, Stephen Colbert questioned the former president about why he chose to honor musicians like James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, and Bruce Springsteen, but not Dolly Parton. Obama said that he "screwed up" by not awarding Dolly Parton a Presidential Medal of Freedom during his time in office.

"That's a mistake. I'm shocked. Actually, that was a screw-up, I'm surprised," Obama said. "I think I assumed that she'd already got one and that was incorrect. I'm surprised, she deserves one." He said that he would "call Biden" and see if he could resolve the issue.

Dolly closed the conversation on Today by humbly stating that she doesn't partake in charity work for the accolades but felt flattered by the appreciation — even if she wasn't sure if she deserved it. 

"I don't work for those awards. It'd be nice, but I'm not sure that I even deserve it. But it's a nice compliment for people to think that I might deserve it," said Dolly.

She told Today in November 2020, following her donation, "I'm just happy that anything I do can help somebody else, and when I donated the money to the COVID fund, I just wanted it to do good."