It was a difficult decision for the committee that assembles the segment to omit Fawcett, said Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences executive director Bruce Davis, who added that he's not surprised some fans and family members are upset.
Fawcett's family issued a statement through a publicist Tuesday saying they were "deeply saddened" and "bereft with this exclusion of such an international icon who inspired so many for so many reasons."
Davis said the academy committee debated about including Fawcett and Gene Barry, a longtime TV actor who died in December at age 90, in the memorial segment but ultimately omitted both.
Davis and his colleagues thought that while the two actors appeared in movies, they were better known for their "remarkable television work" and would be more appropriately honored by the television academy at the Emmy Awards.
The group "was kind of figuring that probably the Farrah Fawcett and Gene Barry omissions would be the ones we'd get the most comments on," he said. He acknowledged that he "did get one letter about Miss Fawcett."
The academy director said "an unusual number of extremely distinguished screenwriters" died this year, and the academy tried to honor many of them in the short memorial segment.
"In every category, you're going to miss some wonderful people," said Davis, who has helped assemble Oscar's In Memoriam montage since it began in 1993.
When asked why Michael Jackson was included when actors were left out, Davis explained that Jackson had appeared in a popular theatrical film recently. Fawcett and Jackson both died on June 25.
"Think of all the blogging we would have gotten if we had left him out!" he said.
Still, he said he understands that the Fawcett and Barry omissions sting.
"There's nothing you can say to people, particularly to family members, within a day or two of the show that helps at all," Davis said. "They tend to be surprised and hurt, and we understand that and we're sorry for it."
By Sandy Cohen