Country singers Toby Keith and Ricky Skaggs were reportedly honored by President Donald Trump on Wednesday (January 13), receiving the National Medal of Arts as Congress debated his second impeachment.
Neither star has spoken publicly about the awards ceremony, which came one week after a protest turned deadly in the nation’s capitol, but numerous reports say the event went ahead while Trump’s second impeachment was voted through by the House of Representatives. Both artists have been supportive of Mr. Trump in the past, with Skaggs welcoming the Republican candidate in 2016 and Keith performing at the 45th President’s inauguration.
According to the Arts.gov website, the National Medal of Arts is “the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States government.” It is “awarded by the President of the United States to individuals or groups 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.’
Ricky Skaggs and Toby Keith appear to be the only recipients of the honor since 2019, which President Trump recognized bluegrass star Alison Krauss, actor John Voight and others. Previous Presidents have reportedly given out as many as 10 medals each year. The news arrives with less that a week left in President Trump’s term, and follows the storming of the U.S. Capitol by thousands of his supporters — which a number of country stars have spoken out against. Notably, other public figures such as NFL coach Bill Belichick have opted not to accept awards from the President in the riot’s wake.