Actor Denzel Washington, who was named by President Joe Biden last week as one of the 17 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom this year, has tested positive for COVID-19 and wasn’t able to attend Thursday’s East Room ceremony, the White House Press Office confirmed.
Biden addressed Washington’s absence in his opening speech at the White House event, according to ET Online. While bestowing the medals on the 16 other honorees or their family members, he promised that Washington would receive his medal later.
“There’s a man who couldn’t be here today but wanted to be: Denzel Washington, one of our greatest actors in American history,” Biden said. “He couldn’t be here with us today, but I’ll be giving him this award at a later date when he’s able to get here.”
From Broadway to Hollywood, Washington is one of the most universally praised and decorated actors of his generation. The 67-year-old is halfway to EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) fame with two Oscars and a Tony Award under his belt, according to Time.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave Washington the supporting actor Oscar for “Glory” in 1990 and a lead actor statuette for “Training Day” in 2002. He won his 2010 Tony for lead actor in a play after a revival run of August Wilson’s “Fences.”
Though Washington suffers no shortage of critical success, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor in the U.S. His peers this year included Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, soccer player Megan Rapinoe and the late Sen. John McCain.
“That’s who we are as Americans,” Biden said at the ceremony. “And that’s what we see, an extraordinary, extraordinary group of Americans up here on this stage that I have the honor to recognize today with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor.”
Whether Washington will one day become an EGOT winner remains to be seen. In the end, a presidential promise to be honored with a medal is arguably cooler.