Dwayne Johnson and Oprah Winfrey’s Maui controversy, explained

Dwayne Johnson is acknowledging the backlash he faced after launching a fundraiser to help survivors of the Maui wildfires, saying he “could have been better.”

In late August, Johnson and Oprah Winfrey launched the People’s Fund of Maui, a fund intended to put money directly into the hands of adults displaced by the deadly wildfires that had ripped through Lahaina and Kula in Maui, Hawaii, earlier that month.

After announcing the fund, Johnson and Winfrey drew criticism from some people on social media who questioned why they were not contributing more of their personal wealth.

“When we first launched the fund, there was some backlash that came with launching the fund. And I want to address and acknowledge that backlash right now,” Johnson said in an Instagram video.

“I get it, and I completely understand, and I could have been better, and next time, I will be better,” he added.

Here’s what to know about the controversy surrounding Johnson and Winfrey’s Maui fund, as well as both stars’ responses to the backlash.

What’s the Maui fund that sparked the controversy?
Winfrey and Johnson announced they had formed the People’s Fund of Maui in a joint Instagram video on Aug. 31.

In the caption, they described the initiative as “a fund putting money directly in the pockets of those who were affected by the recent wildfires.”According to their Instagram post, every adult resident who was displaced by the fires in Lahaina and Kula is eligible to receive $1,200 each month from the fund.

Winfrey and Johnson noted they had kicked off the campaign with $10 million in donations, and asked others to help by contributing further.

According to the fund’s official website, monthly financial disbursements will be made as long as community members are still in need, and “as long as funds last.”

Why were some people upset when Johnson and Winfrey launched their Maui fund?
Many people took to social media to criticize Winfrey and Johnson’s joint appeal for donations, with one person on TikTok calling their video “tone deaf.”

Some commenters questioned why Johnson and Winfrey, as wealthy celebrities, were asking others to give instead of donating more themselves.

“We can’t afford it, but you can!” one person commented on their video on TikTok.

“You guys make more in a day than I’ll make in my lifetime,” another person wrote. “I believe in you.”

“Skipping the electric bill for groceries this week,” another commenter said. “But you two got this.”

Others questioned why the appeal for donations was being directed at the general public rather than their fellow stars with more financial means.

“This is disgusting. Ask other celebrities,” one person commented on Tiktok, “not people who are living paycheck to paycheck.”

“Hey guys, I think you posted this to social media by mistake. This needs to be sent directly to your friends,” another person wrote.

What did Johnson say in his recent response to the backlash?
In his Oct. 9 Instagram video, Johnson acknowledged the controversy and said he understood why people were upset.

“I understand money ain’t falling out of the sky and it’s not growing on trees, and there’s a lot of people out there who’s living paycheck to paycheck,” he said. “And I get it, and I know what that’s like. I’ve lived paycheck to paycheck. Seven bucks. I know.”

He added that he remembers how “easily pissed off” and “frustrated” he felt when he was barely making ends meet himself.“The last thing you want to hear when you are living from paycheck to paycheck is someone asking you for money, especially when the person asking you for money already has a lot of money.

“So I get it. I understand,” he continued. “I’d never launched a fund before, but I’m a quick study, and lesson learned. So thank you.”

He also said he appreciates the “transparency” and the “relationship” he has with his social media followers.

“We keep it real,” he said. “If I do something you guys love, you let me know … If I do something and you hate it, you let me know. ‘Rock, we hate it. Don’t ever do that s— again.’ Again, lesson learned, I’m a quick study. Thank you. I appreciate that.”

Has Winfrey also addressed the controversy?
Winfrey discussed the backlash on Sept. 12 in an interview on CBS Mornings, saying she felt she had been “terrorized” and “vilified online.”

“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? What if I didn’t have the assurance … It will take you out,” Winfrey said. “So all of the online … attacks, lies, conspiracy theories, really took the focus off of what was the most important thing, and that was the people of Maui.”

She also explained how the idea for the fund had come about.

“I was on the ground talking to lots of people, trying to figure out, how do I best help? In the beginning it was just material things, dropping off generators and towels. And then I started talking to people — people really wanted their own agency,” she said.

Winfrey noted that she was inspired by Dolly Parton’s My People Fund, which Parton launched in the wake of devastating fires in Sevier County, Tennessee, in late 2016.

Parton’s My People Fund raised more than $12 million for families affected by the fire, distributing $1,000 per month for six months directly to families who had lost their homes, according to the singer’s official website.

“I thought, ‘Woah, that’s the idea! (Getting the money) directly into the hands of the people,” Winfrey said.

“So to set up the infrastructure for that, The Rock and his team and my team, we were literally on I don’t know how many Zooms, to set up the infrastructure for the verification process to be able to drop money into people’s accounts,” Winfrey continued.

“And we thought, because both of us have given to charities our whole life, I’ve been giving to charity since my first paycheck … we thought starting the fund with $10 million would be a great idea,” she added.

She also said she was “so excited” about the fund before it launched, and was then dismayed to see all the social media backlash.

“I got up the next morning … and I saw all of this vitriol and I was like, ‘Woah, what happened here?’” she said.

However, Winfrey said she still believes the fund is a “really strong idea.”

“Dolly Parton was right,” she said. “Putting money into the hands of the people is a significant thing.”



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *