EGOT Watch: Oprah Winfrey to Be Awarded Honorary Oscar

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If NewsFeed has learned anything of late, it’s this: despite the fact it’s summer, both the Christmas shopping and Oscar seasons are upon us. Exhibit no. 1: Oprah Winfrey.

The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that it will award an honorary Oscar to Oprah for her off-screen philanthropy (the actor James Earl Jones and makeup artist Dick Smith will also get them at the private ceremony, but are being recognized for their outstanding film careers.)

The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award gets given as way of rewarding the likes of her work on her foundation, Angel Network, and girls’ school in South Africa (giving everyone in her audience a car sadly wasn’t cited). Previous winners include luminaries such as Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, Quincy Jones and Jerry Lewis with the award presented periodically if the board believes there’s a worthy recipient.

(LIST: Top 10 Oprah Controversies)

To be fair to Winfrey, not only has she frequently been recognized for her on-screen TV work (more Emmys than you can shake a stick at) but has a highly credible Oscar nomination for her role in The Color Purple in addition to producing and appearing in Beloved in 1998 and was an executive producer on 2009′s Precious.

But in some people’s eyes, that isn’t enough to justify the accolade. The blogosphere has been lit up by criticism, with Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein going as far to call the decision “a boneheaded move.” He continued that, “Winfrey has done good work in the world, but that’s not enough to merit an Oscar.” But in his most contentious comment, Goldstein went down the race route, suggesting it played a part: “It is a way of guaranteeing that some people of color will be taking home Academy Awards, even if the honors aren’t actually presented on Oscar night.”

Coming to Winfrey’s defense is Academy president Tom Sherak, who didn’t just exclaim that she’s “one of the most philanthropic performers in the world” but that “Oprah has given and given and given. She’s a member of the academy, she was nominated for an Academy Award and she has produced movies. This is not about personality. This is about a person who has come from the depths, risen to the heights and given back. That’s a perfect example of why this award was created.”

We don’t know about you but a tale of recognizing good deeds, facing up to criticism and being the recipient of an award sounds like perfect fodder for a chat show. If only there were someone out there who could do justice to such delicate subject matter. (via E! Online)

(MORE: TIME Cover Story on Oprah Winfrey)

Glen Levy is an Executive Producer at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @glenjl. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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