Trump awards football coach Lou Holtz the Medal of Freedom

President Donald Trump awards football coach Lou Holtz the Medal of Freedom. By Maegan Vazquez, CNN

(CNN) -- President Donald Trump awarded the Medal of Freedom to former football coach Lou Holtz on Thursday in an Oval Office ceremony.

Holtz, 83, has coached several college football teams, but most recently, he served as the head football coach of the University of Notre Dame and the University of South Carolina.

The Oval Office ceremony included a tightly packed audience of dozens of people, many of whom were not wearing masks, according to reporters in the room.

It marks the latest instance in which the Trump White House has eschewed public health recommendations meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which advise against participating in large gatherings, not wearing a mask around others, and not social distancing.

"It's my privilege to present our nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to one of America's greatest coaches in history, the legendary Lou Holtz, a friend of mine," Trump said at a podium in the Oval Office.

While at Notre Dame, Holtz guided the team to a 100-30-2 record in 11 seasons. He has also founded Holtz's Heroes Foundation, which provides a platform to help underprivileged students at Notre Dame.

"Lou got to work quickly, returned Notre Dame to the status of a football powerhouse and the legend that they were," Trump said. Reciting prepared remarks on Holtz's successful record in coaching at Notre Dame, the President added, "See, I didn't know all this stuff. I knew you were a great coach. I didn't know you were this good ... this is beyond a great coach."

Accepting the medal, Holtz called Trump "the greatest president in my lifetime."

"I want to assure you of how proud I am, not only to receive the award -- I'm even prouder to receive it from President Donald Trump," he said.

Holtz added: "This award, as great as it is, does not define who Lou Holtz is. My beautiful family, my precious wife, my friends, you have determined who I am. I just try to be a solid person."

Holtz is a longtime Trump supporter, endorsing him ahead of the 2016 election and appearing earlier this year in a taped statement for the Republican National Convention.

The President also answered questions from the press, a once frequent occurrence that has become rarer for Trump since Election Day.

Trump said he would support an additional coronavirus relief bill, and that he was disappointed in his appointed Attorney General William Barr for his statements underscoring that the Justice Department has not observed evidence of widespread election fraud in the 2020 race.

He also wouldn't directly answer if he still had confidence in Barr.

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham were also in attendance.

The Medal of Freedom is bestowed to "individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors," according to the White House.

Trump announced Holtz would receive the medal in September.

Trump has diverged from some of his predecessors, who took to celebrating several Medal of Freedom honorees at large, public ceremonies inside the White House. The President has instead often chosen to hold ceremonies for individual honorees, sometimes with limited press in the Oval Office.

This isn't Trump's first Medal of Freedom ceremony since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Earlier this summer, Trump awarded the medal to former Olympic runner Jim Ryun at a ceremony in the White House.

The President has honored several pro athletes -- many of whom are supporters -- with the medal since taking office, including former NFL star and Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, former Boston Celtics point guard Bob Cousy, former Lakers player Jerry West, Woods, former Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera and former NFL quarterback Roger Staubach.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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