The White House confirmed on Thursday that Donald Trump awarded the National Medal of Arts to entertainers including Ricky Skaggs and Toby Keith just as Congress was moving to impeach him for the second time.
The honorees for the medals also included Earl “Rusty” Powell, the longest serving director of the National Gallery of Art, and Mary Costa, the opera singer who provided the voice of Aurora in the Disney movie Sleeping Beauty. Another honoree, photographer Nick Ut, best known for his Vietnam era photograph The Terror of War, defended his decision to accept the honor from Trump in light of last week’s siege on the Capitol.
The National Medal of Arts was established in 1984, with recommendations submitted to the president by an advisory committee of the National Endowment for the Arts. Trump gave out his first arts medals in 2019 to a group that included Jon Voight, Alison Krauss, the musicians of the U.S. Military and Sharon Percy Rockefeller. Unlike that ceremony, the White House did not provide press access to Wednesday’s event.
On Wednesday, Trump also handed out the National Humanities Medal to Kay Coles James, president of the Heritage Foundation; James Lighthizer, president of the American Battlefield Trust; and the National World War II Museum.