According to reports, President Donald Trump awarded the National Medal of Arts to country music stars Toby Keith and Ricky Skaggs on Wednesday in the East Room of the White House.
The ceremony was not open to the press but was first reported by Bloomberg News reporter Jennifer Jacobs.
The National Medal of the Arts is awarded to artists who “are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support, and availability of the arts in the United States,” according to the National Endowment of the Arts website. Neither Skaggs nor Keith issued public statements on the awards and both refused to comment when Billboard contacted them.
Toby Keith, whose song “Courtesy of The Red, White, and Blue” became a rallying cry post 9/11, performed at President Trump’s 2017 inaugural (as he also did for Barack Obama), is a well known conservative, and has been a staunch Trump supporter.
Bluegrass giant Ricky Skaggs has also been a Trump supporter. In 2016, for instance, Skaggs said, “I believe Donald Trump is the right person in the right place, and that it’s prophetic.”
Last year, the president awarded the Arts medal to singer Alison Krauss, outspoken actor Jon Voight, broadcasting executive Sharon Percy Rockefeller, and the United States Military Musicians.
Not everyone the president wanted to bestow an award upon was interested in the honor this week, though. Several days ago, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick refused Trump’s offer of a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“Recently, I was offered the opportunity to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which I was flattered by out of respect for what the honor represents and admiration for prior recipients. Subsequently, the tragic events of last week occurred, and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award,” Belichick said in a statement.
The awards to Keith and Skaggs came even as the House Democrats were voting to once again impeach Trump.
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