According to the organization's website, the honor is "given to those in the performing arts for their lifetime of contributions to American culture." Granted, Oprah has had a profound impact on American culture, but in the performing arts?
Oprah's vitae as an actress is limited, although it does include an Oscar and Golden Globe nomination for "The Color Purple." Naysayers in our message boards assert that she's regarded chiefly as a TV talk show host, but a previous gabfest emcee earned this same honor (Johnny Carson) and Oprah often ballyhoos the performing arts on her TV show. Her detractors may also not be giving her sufficient credit for producing movies like "Beloved" and telefilms like "Tuesdays with Morrie" and "The Women of Brewster Place."
Below: a sampling of some forum comments. See more here.
Rockstitution: "I'd have taken Betty White over Oprah for the TV slot."
DS0816: "If Oprah Winfrey has to be on the list, than next year's must include Phil Donahue."
Seanflynn: "I admire Winfrey greatly, have no problem with lots of honors she might receive. She has been an amazing, vital voice for many years. I question this though. It is known for people who are involved in the creative arts and are known as performers and/or creators. But Carson also was a writer/performer/comedian/actor on his show -- Winfrey is an interviewer only. Her other creative endeavors as an actor and producer are laudible, but not remotely Kennedy Center honor worthy, or on the level of Carson's creative/performing work. I think this award for her is dubious."
Photo Credit: Mary Altaffer / Associated Press