Oprah Causes a Stir With TV Crew at Maui Wildfire Shelter

Oprah in Maui (Credit: BBC)

Oprah Winfrey is facing criticism for taking a camera crew to a shelter for survivors of the Maui wildfires.

On Sunday (Aug. 13), the media mogul visited the War Memorial Complex shelter with a CBS News camera crew in tow. According to initial reports, Oprah and her crew were barred from entering because of the facility’s no-media policy.

“Out of respect for those who have come to seek safety and shelter at emergency shelters, our policy remains that no media are given access,” read a widely distributed statement from Maui officials.

However, the County of Maui later clarified that Oprah was allowed to go inside — but not the camera crew.

“Oprah was able to visit our shelter and we thank her for instructing media journalists and camera crews to remain outside,” the County of Maui wrote on Facebook. “We welcome Oprah to continue to uplift our community’s spirit and give her aloha to victims of the tragic disaster.”

“Her visit inside of the shelter today was truly heartwarming and we appreciate her understanding of our policy of having no camera crews or reporters accompanying dignitaries and celebrities in our emergency shelters.”

Related: Oprah Donates Supplies to Families at Maui Wildfire Shelter

Winfrey, who lives part-time on the Hawaiian island, has already made several trips to help those affected by the wildfires that have claimed more than 90 lives, and inflicted major damage on more than 2,000 structures since starting on Aug. 8.

Winfrey has a partnership with CBS News. But she faced backlash on social media over the weekend, with some local residents asking why she chose to bring a TV news crew to the shelter.

Some social media users even accused Winfrey of trying to pull off a “publicity stunt.”

“Oprah, help without the crew geez!!! This isn’t a publicity stunt these are people who lost everything!!!” one person wrote on Twitter/X.

Someone else posted, “I’m not saying Oprah arriving with a CBS News crew was a publicity stunt, but it did have the feels of one.”

Despite Winfrey’s crew being turned away on Sunday, a reporter for the BBC spoke with her inside the shelter during an earlier visit on Aug. 10, where she shared her thoughts on the tragic situation at hand.

“It’s a little overwhelming, but I’m really so pleased to have so many people supporting and people are just bringing what they can,” she said at the time.

After gathering information from residents about their needs, Winfrey donated supplies like pillows, shampoo, diapers, and sheets, sourced from stores such as Walmart and Costco.

Following Sunday’s controversy, Winfrey posted a video on Instagram pledging to offer financial assistance to the people affected by the fire.

“At some point, I will make a major donation after all of the smoke and ash have settled here and we figure out what the rebuilding is going to look like,” she said.