Belfast Telegraph

Academy defends Oscar for Oprah

Film academy president Tom Sherak has defended the decision to give Oprah Winfrey a special Oscar.

Sherak says the TV star is "one of the most philanthropic performers in the world" and thus deserving of the Academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted to present Oprah with an Oscar statuette at the annual Governors Awards in November. James Earl Jones and make-up artist Dick Smith will also receive honorary Oscars at the private ceremony.

Blogs have been abuzz with criticism over the selection of Oprah for the award since the announcement was made. Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein called the decision "a boneheaded move".

"Winfrey has done good work in the world, but that's not enough to merit an Oscar," he added.

Sherak said the Hersholt Award recognised an individual who "exemplifies giving back to the community, the world, society in an extraordinary way".

"Oprah has given and given and given," he said, adding that she had contributed more than 500 million dollars of her own money to charitable causes.

"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."

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