Dolly Parton explains why she rejected Trump’s Medal of Freedom — not once but twice

Dolly Parton in an angelic white costume
Dolly Parton is in a bit of a bind regarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Dolly Parton and the Presidential Medal of Freedom just can’t seem to connect.

First, former President Obama admitted in December that overlooking Parton for the nation’s highest civilian honor was a mistake he would try to remedy via the Biden administration.

The country singer, who is famously apolitical, has revealed that she was offered the honor not once but twice by Trump, but couldn’t make it to either ceremony.

“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 the “Today” show’s Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager on Monday. (Parton has been married to Carl Thomas Dean since 1966.)


And now she has a dilemma: Parton says President Biden — who got the medal himself from Obama in 2017 — has contacted her already about the award.

“Now I feel like if I take it, I’ll be doing politics,” she said, so she’s not sure what she’s going to do.

Parton also worries that the honor might not be appropriate. “I’m not sure that I even deserve it,” she said. “But it’s a nice compliment for people to think that I might deserve it.”

Kotb assured her she was deserving.

But taking any kind of political stand, real or perceived, has long been anathema to the country icon.

“I don’t believe that I should offend people that don’t have that same opinion by voicing my own opinion,” she told The Times in 2019. “I’m an entertainer; I can live it, I can write about it, I can joke, lift people up in my own way. But I don’t see no reason for me to get involved in political fights.”


The country music star is everywhere these days. And she’s determined to bridge our seemingly countless divides.

Nov. 13, 2019

She continued: “Half my people are Republicans, half of them are Democrats, and I always joke that I’m just a ‘hypocrat’ — and in a way I kind of am. ... I know we can’t ever all get along. But we could get along a little better if we tried a little harder.”

The Medal of Freedom was established by President Truman in 1945. Per executive-order update by President Kennedy in 1963, the medal now is given to citizens who have made an “especially meritorious contribution” to the security or national interests of the U.S., to world peace or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

Clearly, Parton has paved the way for world peace with her hands-off political stance, but yes, she’s most likely a nominee for cultural achievements. Though she did make a million-dollar donation to vaccine research last year.

Meanwhile, Parton has been busy recording a new version of her hit 1980s song “9 to 5” for a new Super Bowl commercial directed by “La La Land” filmmaker Damien Chazelle. The rewritten “5 to 9” celebrates people who work a side hustle — after normal business hours, get it? — and appears in an ad for Squarespace, a website builder and ecommerce company.