Every day, Dolly Parton wakes up knowing that she is a living legend, style icon, and all-around queen. She doesn’t need an ego boost to affirm her greatness, which is why Parton dismissed Donald Trump’s invitation to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom not once, but twice — RSVPing to the White House with the equivalent of “Nah, I’m good, keep your COVID to yourself.”
Parton appeared on The Today Show to explain why she turned down the medal. With her characteristic frankness, she notes that the decision wasn’t based on politics, but on health. “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,” said Parton. We stan a practical, safety-minded goddess.
Still, the spurning leaves Parton at a loss as to whether to accept the honor at all if it came from President Joe Biden. “Now I feel like if I take it, I’ll be doing politics, so I’m not sure,” she lamented. “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.” Co-host Hoda Kotb said what we were all thinking, telling Parton that “I think everyone thinks you might deserve it.” Yes, we all do. Give Parton all the medals, please.
Parton and her husband, Carl Thomas Dean, have been married for 54 years. They’ve kept their relationship especially private; prior to this interview, Parton hadn’t revealed that he was sick with an unknown illness. She joked that they were once “sick of each other” on Jessie Ware’s podcast Table Manners with Jessie Ware, which, totally fair, after spending over five decades together.
Meanwhile, the White House was a COVID-19 hotspot. Trump himself contracted the virus in October 2020, along with Melania Trump and their teenage son Barron. Numerous other administration staffers also tested positive, including former advisers Hope Hicks and Stephen Miller, former chief of staff Mark Meadows, former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, and Chris Christie, who was hospitalized.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award that someone can receive. Regardless, Parton was very smart for staying the hell away from that coronavirus nesting place.