The country icon told The Today Show that her decision wasn’t politically motivated, but a matter of practicality.
“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 said.
Parton added that she had since heard from President Joe Biden about receiving the award, but is concerned that accepting it would be misconstrued as a political statement and a rejection of his predecessor Donald Trump.
“Now I feel like if I take it, I’ll be doing politics, so I’m not sure,” she said. “But 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 has politically sat on the fence for years, refusing to align with nor condemn any particular ideology or US president, while insisting that it’s the key to her longevity.
The singer, who has won 10 Grammy Awards across her 54-year career, donated $1m (£730,000) in 2020 to help fund coronavirus research at Vanderbilt University, which helped develop the Moderna vaccine.
Since the mid-1980s, Parton has also supported many charitable efforts, particularly in the area of literacy through her Dollywood Foundation.
Celebrities who have previously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom include Bruce Springsteen, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross and Bob Dylan.
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