"I think I assumed that she had already got one and that was incorrect," the former president said

By Nicholas Rice
December 02, 2020 11:05 AM
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During his two terms in the White House — amid all the achievements and crisis and upheaval — Barack Obama says he made a little "screw up" involving Dolly Parton.

During an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Tuesday, the former president took some "questions we're pretty sure Barack Obama has never been asked before," which let him wryly reflect on the "mistake" of not awarding the country music legend a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Host Stephen Colbert asked him outright: "How does Dolly Parton not have a Presidential Medal of Freedom?"

"That's a mistake, I'm shocked," Obama, 59, replied.

"Looking back on your eight years, do you realize that was the mistake you made?" Colbert, 56, joked.

"Actually, that was a screw-up," Obama said. "I think I assumed that she had already got one and that was incorrect."

"I'm surprised — she deserves one," he added, saying, "I'll call [Joe] Biden."

Dolly Parton and Obama
From left: Dolly Parton and Barack Obama
| Credit: Dave J Hogan/Getty; Kevin Mazur/Getty

The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, is given "to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors," according to the White House.

Parton, 74, would be in good company in having one.

During his presidency, Obama awarded the Medal of Freedom to a slew of other iconic musical artists, including Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen, Gloria Estefan, Bob Dylan and Barbra Streisand.

Obama also gave the award to other notable figures, including Oprah Winfrey, Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep, as well as Steven Spielberg, Ethel Kennedy and Bill Clinton — and, in an emotional moment, his own Vice President Biden.

RELATED VIDEO: Joe Biden Surprised with Presidential Medal of Freedom

Parton has, of course, received numerous other awards throughout her career, including the National Medal of Arts in 2005 and a Kennedy Center Honor in 2006.

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Obama's successor, Donald Trump, has awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Elvis Presley, Babe Ruth, Tiger Woods, Rush Limbaugh and others.