Barack Obama vows to help Dolly Parton get the presidential medal of freedom after his ‘screw-up’

Former president Barack Obama and future president Dolly Parton

Barack Obama has thrown his weight behind efforts to get COVID vaccine hero Dolly Parton a presidential medal of freedom.

During an appearance on The Late Show on Monday (November 30), host Stephen Colbert asked Obama about his failure to award America’s highest honour the country music star and gay icon during his time in office.

Asked why Parton has never been honoured, Obama deadpanned: “That’s a mistake. I’m shocked.”

Colbert continued: “Looking back at your eight years, do you realize that’s the mistake you made?”

Obama joked: “Actually, that was a screw-up. I’m surprised. I think I assumed that she had already gotten one, and that was incorrect… she deserves one, I’ll call Biden.”

Plenty of famous faces have had the honour in the past. Obama honoured Ellen DeGeneres with the medal in 2016, while Donald Trump opted to give it to the ragingly homophobic radio host Rush Limbaugh.

Dolly Parton didn’t know she’d helped fund a COVID-19 vaccine.

Parton’s hero status was re-emphasised last month when it was revealed that her Dolly Parton COVID-19 Research Fund helped to finance the Moderna vaccine candidate that is proven to be 94.5 percent effective at tackling the virus.

Speaking on 17 November, Parton explained that the breakthrough came months after she gave $1 million to set up the fund at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Obama said COVID vaccine hero Dolly Parton should get a presidential medal of freedom

COVID vaccine hero Dolly Parton should get a presidential medal of freedom, Barack Obama said. (John Lamparski/Getty)

She told the BBC: “When the pandemic started, many months ago, I just felt led to put some money into a programme at Vanderbilt Hospital, it’s a wonderful hospital here. It’s been so good to me and my family over the years.

“I donated a $1 million, and they called it the Dolly Parton COVID Fund. Out of that, they actually got more money, and it just started growing, and they were developing all of these wonderful things.

“I just found out today actually that it was for real, and that it was part of the programme we helped start.

“I’m sure many, many millions of dollars from many people went into that, but I just felt so proud to have been part of that little seed money, that will hopefully grow into something great, and help to heal this world. Lord knows, we need it!”

‘Saint’ Dolly Parton has a long list of incredible accomplishments.

Dolly Parton’s extraordinary generosity is not news to fans of the singer, who has a long line of humanitarian accomplishments.

The singer’s Imagination Library book gifting programme has helped teach millions of children to read since it was first set up by the singer in 1995, delivering more than 130 million free books to children across the world, earning her special recognition from the Library of Congress.

Her Dollywood Foundation also provides scholarships to help children from underprivileged backgrounds, while the singer spent millions on relief efforts in 2017 after homes across Tennessee were ravaged by wildfires.

Among Parton’s many honours is an award from the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 2003 for setting up a sanctuary for endangered bald eagles at her Dollywood park.

Fans were also thrilled to learn that the singer’s production company had a silent stake in the feminist TV classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As The New York Times reported in 2016, when Parton discovered that a female executive was receiving less royalties from Buffy than her male counterparts, she personally cut her a cheque.