Oprah Was Shocked by ‘Online Slander’ Over Maui Fire Fundraiser

Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne Johnson announced the establishment of “People’s Fund of Maui” to distribute cash directly to those who were displaced and affected by the fire. (Credit: YouTube)

Oprah Winfrey says she was caught off guard by criticism of her campaign to raise money for people affected by the deadly Maui wildfires.

Last month, the media mogul partnered with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to launch the “People’s Fund of Maui.

In a video announcement posted to social media on Aug. 31, the pair kicked off the fundraising campaign with a combined $10 million donation.

They asked fans to donate money as well. But some social media users, especially conservatives, criticized Winfrey and Johnson, saying the two have a combined net worth of nearly $3 billion, yet are asking people who are just getting by to donate money.

Related StoryOprah Donates Supplies to Families at Maui Wildfire Shelter

During a Sept. 12 interview on CBS Mornings, Winfrey said the backlash made her “sad.”

“All of the online slander, attacks, lies, conspiracy theories really took the focus off of what was the important thing, and that was the people Maui,” she said.

The former talk show host told her friend Gayle King she was inspired by Dolly Parton, who organized a fundraiser to help people in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, after a deadly wildfire swept through the area in 2016.

“We thought starting the fund with $10 million would be a great idea,” Winfrey said. “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?’”

She added,  “It made me sad that we are at this state in our country.”

Winfrey disabled the comments on her Aug. 31 Instagram post announcing the fund. The Rock posted the video on X/Twitter and it generated over 6,000 comments.

While some praised the two for stepping up to help, many others criticized them.

“Oh puleaase. We don’t believe either of you for a second. If you cared about Maui you wouldn’t be asking US for money. You would use your own. Your ‘ask’ is quite revealing,” celebrity vocal coach Cari Cole replied.

“This is embarrassing, 2 individuals with $3bn between them asking for $10mn from the American public which is at an all time poor, thanks to people like themselves,” another person responded.

“It’s disturbing you’re asking us working class stiffs to do what you and your friends could do single handedly. Instead, you two pontificate for clout. Gross,” someone else wrote.

Despite the online attacks, Winfrey said in the CBS interview 2,200 people have made verified donations to the fund.

The press release for the fundraiser said Maui residents who were displaced by the deadly wildfires in Lahaina and Kula can receive $1,200 each month to help them get back on their feet.

Winfrey owns an estate in Maui and lives there part time. Johnson is of Samoan descent and spent part of his childhood in Hawaii.