Fans have criticised Dwayne Johnson and Oprah Winfrey for asking for donations to their Maui relief fund, with many suggesting the celebrity duo solely contribute to the fund.
After deadly wildfires swept through the island in August, Maui’s infrastructure was left devastated, and so were families and residents who lost loved ones, neighbours, and friends. CNN reported that the confirmed death toll reached 115, but dozens of lives have still been unaccounted for. According to a statement published by the County of Maui, the Lahaina wildfires have been contained as of 3 September, and the Olinda and Kula wildfires have been 90 per cent and 95 per cent contained, respectively.
In light of the tragedy, Winfrey and Johnson took to Instagram and TikTok on 31 August to reach their millions of followers, and in a video of the pair standing side-by-side, they introduced their new collaboration: The People’s Fund of Maui.
They said that their relief fund was intended to raise money for Maui residents who had been affected by the tragedy. In the video, the pair cited Dolly Parton and her philanthropy as an inspiration for their new venture. They claimed that, because people were confused about how to help Maui residents, they sought to create a fund that would “directly” provide residents with relief.
In the lengthy caption, the pair wrote: “We’re honoured 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 per cent guarantee that your donations will go directly into the hands of Lahaina residents.”
They explained that any adult resident who lives in the affected area and was displaced by the Lahaina and Kula wildfires is “eligible to receive $1,200 per month” through the fund. They concluded the caption: “We are honoured to start this campaign with $10m and ask for your help in donating to those who have lost their homes. We thank you in advance for your contribution.”
Although Johnson and Winfrey may have had altruistic intentions, many were flabbergasted that the pair - one a billionaire and the other a multi-millionaire - asked the public to donate their money. Johnson and Winfrey’s video drew 60,000 comments, with many viewers reacting with disappointment and skepticism.
One user wrote in the video’s comment section, “Girl you got some nerve asking us working class people who can barely afford to put food on the table for our families to donate…why don’t you ask your millionaire/billionaire buddies to help.”
“This is sooo ironic… a billionaire and a millionaire asking YOU to donate YOUR money??” another balked, while someone else 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….”
According to Forbes, Winfrey has a net worth of $2.5bn and owns at least 13 properties on the Hawaiian islands, adding up to over 1,000 acres of land. Meanwhile, Johnson is reportedly the world’s highest-paid actor at $270m.
The Independent has contacted representatives for Winfrey and Johnson for comment.