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Oprah Responds to Backlash Over Maui Wildfire Fundraiser

Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey attends the red carpet promoting the upcoming film “The Color Purple” during the Warner Bros. Pictures Studio presentation during CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on April 25, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Greg Doherty/WireImage)

*Oprah Winfrey responded to the furor she and Dwayne Johnson received for their Maui wildfire fundraiser.

The duo launched a recovery fund for those affected by the Maui wildfires. In a video posted on Instagram last month, Winfrey and Johnson announced that they donated $10 million to get the campaign off the ground. They are also calling on the public to donate to the effort. 

According to the media, about 115 people were killed in the wildfires (locals on Twitter claim it’s more), over 100 residents are missing, and 6,000 are displaced, Yahoo reported. 

Many criticized Oprah’s land ownership on the island and the irony of two very wealthy celebrities asking for donations to help those impacted by the disaster. Winfrey defended the People’s Fund of Maui during an appearance on CBS Mornings on Tuesday, Yahoo reports. 

“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,” she said, noting that her bestie Gayle King suggested they follow a similar fundraising approach as country music star Dolly Parton.

Parton raised money to help families in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, after a similar natural disaster in 2017. Instead of begging fans for donations, she hosted a fundraising concert.

“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,” Winfrey added. “We’ll do what Dolly did, get other people to give money, and then we’ll put it directly into people’s bank accounts.”

Winfrey and Johnson each donated $5 million to the People’s Fund of Maui, but they did not anticipate the backlash when they called on the public for help.

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

On Instagram, Winfrey, who owns more than 2,000 acres of land in Maui, promised to “make a major donation” to help the island recover. She reportedly purchased 870 of those acres earlier this year. The media mogul has lived in Maui “part-time for more than 15 years.”

READ MORE: Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Launch Maui Relief Fund | Video

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