"Now I feel like if I take it, I'll be doing politics," Parton tells Today with Hoda and Jenna

By Sean Neumann
February 01, 2021 05:07 PM
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Dolly Parton says she doesn't know if she'd accept a Medal of Freedom award from President Joe Biden after she declined the award twice from his predecessor, Donald Trump.

Parton, 75, opened up about the celebratory conundrum during an interview airing Tuesday morning on Today with Hoda and Jenna.

PEOPLE has an exclusive clip of the interview, which will air Tuesday morning during the NBC talk show's fourth hour.

"Well, I actually have to be honest in all fairness," Parton tells hosts Hoda Kotb, 56, and Jenna Bush Hager, 39. "I got offered the freedom award from the Trump administration and I couldn't accept it because my husband [Carl Dean] was ill."

Parton adds: "Then they asked me again about it and I wouldn't travel because of the COVID, so now I feel like if I take it I'll be doing politics. So, I'm not sure."

Joe Biden, Dolly Parton, Donald Trump
From left: Joe Biden, Dolly Parton and Donald Trump
| Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty; Jason Kempin/Getty; MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty
Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton in 2016
| Credit: Getty

Bush Hager, the daughter of former President George W. Bush, asked Parton about her thoughts on whether she'd accept the award if she was offered the medal by the Biden administration.

The Today host cited a running joke about former President Barack Obama saying his "biggest mistake" was not giving the famed country singer the national honor.

Last December, during an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the late night host had jokingly asked Obama: "How does Dolly Parton not have a Presidential Medal of Freedom?"

Obama, 59, said he was "shocked" and added, "That's a mistake."

"She deserves one," Obama continued, saying, "I'll call Biden."

During the interview airing Tuesday on Today, Parton called it "a nice compliment for people to think that I might deserve it," but she shrugged off whether she'd accept the honor herself — especially now that her decision may appear political.

"I don't work for those awards," she says. "It'd be nice, but I'm not sure that I even deserve it."

Kotb and Bush Hager immediately chimed in to supportively disagree with the American icon, who received a lifetime achievement award at the Grammys in 2011.

"I think you do," Kotb says. "Everyone thinks you might deserve it."

The Today show airs weekdays 7-11 a.m. on NBC.