Oprah Winfrey Shocked by Maui Wildfire Fund Backlash: 'Sad That We're in This State in Our Country'

Oprah Winfrey partnered with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson each committed $5 million to the launch of the People's Fund of Miami, but faced a social media backlash when they asked fans to chip in and donate, as well.

Oprah Winfrey is frustrated about the negative response to her attempt to do something good for the people of Maui after the recent wildfires devastated the island. She and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson were slammed on social media for asking the public to contribute to their fund.

The problem, as fans saw it, was that Winfrey and Johnson have far more money than most — her net worth is $2.8 billion while his is around $800 million — so how dare they expect anyone else to contribute.

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The stars each contributed $5 million to get the fund started to get the People’s Fund of Miami off the ground with the goal of getting proceeds directly into the hands of victims.

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During an appearance on CBS Mornings on Tuesday, Winfrey admitted that she was surprised by the negative reaction to their fund. She also said she found it frustrating that the backlash “took the focus off of what was the most important thing, which is the people of Maui.”

“So this idea came about because I was on the ground, talking to lots of people, trying to figure out how I can best help,” Winfrey said. She was spotted and photographed in the immediate aftermath contributing physical goods at shelters.

But, as it turns out, she said that upon speaking to people, she learned that they “really wanted their own agency.” Gayle King then helped her out by sharing with her how Dolly Parton helped victims in Gatlinburg, TN after the 2017 wildfires there.

Parton raised money through a concert and then distributed  that money directly to families displaced or devastated by the disaster. “I thought, ‘Whoa! That’s the idea,'” Winfrey said. Partnering with Johnson, they decided to try and follow her lead.

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“We thought, because both of us have given to charities our whole lives, that starting the fund with $10 million would be a great idea,” she explained. “We’ll do what Dolly did, get other people to give money and then we’ll put it directly into people’s bank accounts.”

“I was so excited. I was so excited about it,” she continued, “And then I got up the next morning, and I saw all of this vitriol, and I was, like, ‘Whoa, what happened here?'”

Nevertheless, the fund persisted and Winfrey said that they have verified 2,200 people to directly receive money. While she’s still excited about the idea, the backlash leaves her “sad that we’re in this state in our country.”

Hardest hit after the August wildfires swept through portions of Maui was the community of Lahaina, which was nearly wiped off the map. FEMA estimates 2,200 buildings were destroyed there while 115 people have been confirmed dead with an additional 66 still missing.

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