Dolly Parton twice turned down the highest US civilian honour when Donald Trump offered it – but isn’t sure she’ll accept the presidential medal of freedom from Joe Biden, because it might seem political to do so.
“I couldn’t accept it because my husband was ill,” the country music star, 75, told NBC’s Today of Trump’s first offer, “and then they asked me again about it and I wouldn’t travel because of the Covid.”
In April last year, Parton donated $1m to help research and development of the Moderna vaccine against Covid-19.
Then, she told the BBC: “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!”
Speaking to NBC, she said she had heard from the Biden administration but added: “Now I feel like if I take it, I’ll be doing politics, so I’m not sure.
“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.”
Parton’s charity work spreads far wider than the battle against Covid, including work to boost childhood literacy. She told Today she was “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. Evidently, it is.”
Despite a troubled start to the US vaccination campaign the Moderna shot and another from Pfizer BioNTech are in circulation as Biden looks to tackle a problem bequeathed by Trump. As of Monday morning, the US had recorded nearly 26.3m coronavirus cases and more than 443,000 deaths. Biden has said the final death toll could reach 660,000.
The presidential medal of freedom is the highest US civilian honour. Trump gave it to one musician, Elvis Presley, but made headlines late in his term by bestowing it on close political allies Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan, Republican congressmen who backed the president through impeachment and other scandals.
In November, the CBS Late Show host, Stephen Colbert, asked former president Barack Obama, who honoured musicians including James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen, “How does Dolly Parton not have a presidential medal of freedom?”
Obama said: “That’s a mistake. I’m shocked. Actually, that was a screw-up, I’m surprised. I think I assumed that she’d already got one and that was incorrect. I’m surprised, she deserves one.”
Obama said he would “call Biden”. It seems he did.