Country musicians Toby Keith and Ricky Skaggs were reportedly awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Donald Trump on Wednesday. The presentation took place the same day the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump for a historic second time in the wake of the violent insurgency on Capitol Hill on Jan.6.
Due to Keith’s unwavering military support and Jingoist hymns like “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)”, the Oklahoma native has long been viewed as a conservative Republican, though, as he explained to Chicago Tribune, he is in fact a former Democrat who is no longer affiliated with either party. In 2017, he performed at Trump’s inauguration ceremony, drawing some criticism.
Skaggs was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2018. A longtime Republican Christian and evangelical, he expressed his support for Trump in a 2016 interview with the Gospel Herald. “I like [Trump’s] enthusiasm and fighting spirit, ”he said. “He won’t let anyone bulldozer over him because he’s a bulldozer himself. Mr. Trump is someone who demolishes and rebuilds. I think Donald Trump is the right person in the right place and that is prophetic. “
Skaggs began his career in bluegrass and brought elements of the genre to country radio with songs like “Heartbroke,” “Highway 40 Blues” and “Country Boy,” whose video featured bluegrass great Bill Monroe. Keith, meanwhile, has been a perennial country radio hitmaker, with picture-rich hits like “Should’ve Been a Cowboy”, the stridently patriotic “American Soldier” and the novelty “Red Solo Cup.” They’ve both been relatively calm in recent years – Keith released the singles “That’s Country Bro” in 2019 and “What’s Up Cuz” in 2020, though neither is featured. Skaggs’ latest new music was released in 2014.
This is only the second time during his presidency of a term that Trump has presented the National Medal of the Arts. In 2019, he honored Alison Krauss, benefactor of the arts Sharon Percy Rockefeller, US military musicians and actor Jon Voight. Trump tried to present the Freedom Medal to New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick earlier this week. The coach refused.
A representative for Keith declined to comment. A representative for Skaggs did not respond to a request for comment.