By Mike Bedigan, PA Los Angeles Correspondent
Denzel Washington was forced to pull out of a White House ceremony in which he was due to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom after contracting Covid-19.
The Oscar-winning actor and director was part of a list of 17 recipients receiving the accolade, which is the highest civilian honour that can be bestowed in the US.
President Joe Biden handed out the medals at the event on Thursday, but said he would be giving Washington’s to him “at a later date”.
“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, acknowledging the Hollywood star as a recipient of “academy Awards, Golden Globes, Tony Awards (and) wide acclaim from audiences and peers around the world”.
“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.”
A spokesperson for Washington said that despite the positive test, the actor “feels fine”.
“Denzel tested positive for Covid and so he was unfortunately unable to attend the Medal of Freedom award ceremony,” they said.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is presented to individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavours.
As well as Washington, other celebrities on the list include two Olympic gold-medal winners, footballer Megan Rapinoe and gymnast Simone Biles.
Addressing Biles, who at 25 is the youngest ever recipient of the honour, Biden said: “Today, she adds to her medal count – I don’t know how you’re going to find room.”
Apple founder Steve Jobs, who died in 2011, was presented with the honour posthumously.