Oprah Winfrey has responded to the backlash she and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson over the Maui wildfire fund, admitting that she was ‘shocked’ by the criticism they faced.
Oprah and Johnson established a relief fund to assist local residents in response to the devastating wildfires that devastated large portions of Maui, Hawaii. They shared a video of themselves encouraging followers to donate to their People’s Fund of Maui to help those who had been affected.
However, people slammed the video, questioning why they themselves couldn’t make a greater contribution from their own millions (and, in Oprah’s case, billions), rather than asking the public.
CNN reports that hundreds of structures were damaged or destroyed by horrific wildfires that raced over the island in August, killing 115 people and leaving numerous others missing.
According to a statement released by the County of Maui, the fire in Lahaina had been put out by September 3, while the flames in Olinda and Kula were almost completely controlled.
Winfrey and Johnson established the People’s Fund of Maui in a video that was shared to their millions of Instagram followers on August 31. They said that it sought to assist in raising money for communities affected by the disaster.
In the caption of their now viral video, the duo said: “We’re honored to announce the People’s Fund of Maui, a fund putting money directly in the pockets of those who were affected by the recent wildfires.
“As we have seen firsthand, the impacts of these wildfires have been devastating, and we’re here to ensure with 100% guarantee that your donations will go directly into the hands of Lahaina residents.
“Every adult resident who lives in the affected area and was displaced by the wildfires in Lahaina and Kula is eligible to receive $1200 per month to help them through this period of recovery. All you have to do is go to PeoplesFundofMaui.org to apply.
“We are honored to start this campaign with $10 million dollars and ask for your help in donating to those who have lost their homes. We thank you in advance for your contribution.”
Thousands of individuals commented on the upload, many of whom seemed against the notion of affluent celebrities asking the public for extra money.
One wrote: “Math ain’t mathing with this one. You guy’s literally have so much money…. You can donate it and make it back within a year.”
While another commented: “I support Maui and the cause. But why are you asking us common folk who live paycheck to paycheck. We struggle to put food on table. Who helps us?”
Fast forward 2 weeks and now Oprah has broken her silence on the backlash, admitting that she was ‘shocked’ by the negative response during an interview with CBS Mornings to promote her latest book.
“I will say this. I came out of this experience with so much more compassion for young kids, because I was thinking, what if I didn’t really know who I am? It will take you out,” Oprah said, via The Independent.
“So all of the online attacks, lies, conspiracy theories, really took the focus off of what was the most important thing, which is the people of Maui.”
She revealed that she first got the idea for the fund when Gayle King’s son shared a link relating to Dolly Parton’s 2017 fund for the victims of the Gatlinburg, Tennessee fires.
“I was so excited. I was so excited about it, and then I got up the next morning, and I saw all of this vitriol, and I was, like: ‘Whoa, what happened here?’” Oprah said.
“This is what I want to say. I want to say that, in the beginning, so many people were calling, asking: ‘Where do we give our money to?’ So I thought, I’m going to give people a place to give it.”
She continued to say that she finds it “sad that we’re in this state in our country”.