Toby Keith, Ricky Skaggs Honored By Donald Trump Amid Impeachment Proceedings
Toby Keith and Ricky Skaggs were presented the National Medal of Arts by President Donald Trump on Wednesday afternoon (Jan. 13). The ceremony is said to have taken place soon after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach the president for a second time.
While a representative for Keith simply declined to comment on the matter, a representative for Skaggs shared on Thursday (Jan. 14) that the ceremony was originally scheduled for 2020 but delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous news outlets are reporting that the National Medal of Arts ceremony took place in the East Room of the White House and involved both country singers.
An Instagram post from former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer shows Keith next to Trump, about to be presented with his medal, during the ceremony. Additional photos and a caption from Spicer note that in addition to Keith and Skaggs, three others received the honor on Wednesday: opera and theater star Mary Costa, National Gallery of Art Director Earl Powell III and wartime photojournalist Nick Ut, who is most famous for the photograph "The Terror or War," shown in the third slide of Spicer's post.
The National Medal of Arts has not been a high priority for President Trump since he took office. In 2019, he doled out just four of them (including one to Alison Krauss), the first four of his presidency. Previous presidents going back to President Ronald Reagan have awarded 10 or more a year, every year.
Neither Keith nor Skaggs has shared anything about the honor on social media, but it comes as notable people are declining honors from Trump, and as some members of his own political party are distancing themselves from him. New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, for example, turned down the Presidential Medal of Freedom, citing last week's riots at the U.S. Capitol.
Skaggs has spoken favorably of Trump in the past: "I believe Donald Trump is the right person in the right place, and that it's prophetic," he said in 2016 (per Billboard).
Keith played Trump's inauguration in 2017, but had previously identified as a Democrat.