‘Did Oprah Just Double Down and Gaslight Us’: Oprah Winfrey Responds to Online Criticism About Her and Dwayne Johnson’s Donation Fund for Maui Wildfire Victims and It’s Not the Reaction Critics Were Expecting

Media mogul Oprah Winfrey has finally responded to the backlash she and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson received over the People’s Fund of Maui.

Fans accuse Oprah Winfrey of gaslighting critics following backlash from her seeking donations for Maui wildfire victims.
Fans accuse Oprah Winfrey of gaslighting critics following backlash from her seeking donations for Maui wildfire victims. (Photo: Oprah Winfrey “CBS Mornings”/YouTube Screenshot)

Many were upset about the two setting up the community-driven campaign that will serve as a charitable effort, giving $1,200 monthly grants directly to displaced individuals and others impacted by the wildfires on the island to spend the money how they please.

Despite her articulating her intentions for the funds, all kinds of rumors and accusations have emerged — from her working with the government to steal the land to her hiring firefighters to protect her estate, even after she set up the fund.

Winfrey addressed the criticism earlier this week while promoting her new book, “Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier,” with co-author Arthur C. Brooks, on “CBS Mornings” on Sept. 12.

During a chat with her best friend Gayle King, and the show’s co-hosts, Tony Dokoupil and Nate Burleson, she was asked about how she felt about being villainized by the public after she and The Rock set up the fund.

“It made me deeply mad. It made you deeply sad,” said King.

The OWN creator was uncommonly candid about her hurt— not disappointment, seeming to be vulnerable in a way many had never seen her.

“This is a really great point about being happier in the midst of an onslaught of being terrorized and vilified online,” she said. “I will say this, I came out of this … 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 of Invictus, that I am the master of my own fate and the captain of my soul?”

The 69-year-old said without that “knowing” she would have been taken out.

“All of the online, you know, being slammed, attacked, lies, conspiracy theories, really took the focus off of what was the most important thing and that was the people of Maui,” she added.

Oprah and The Rock used their own funds to seed the People’s Fund of Maui with $10 million. She said the idea to start the fund was borrowed from country singer Dolly Parton, who supported those affected during the Smokey Mountain wildfires in Gatlinburg in 2017. Parton held a benefit concert, where she raised $12 million and set up a fund to put money into people’s accounts.

“The Color Purple” actress said she never believed people would be so upset with it or her, particularly since she has been giving to charity since her “first paycheck” and describes herself as an avid “tither.” She shared that when she first saw the backlash, she had a “Whoa!” reaction.

“I got up the next morning and I saw all of this vitriol and I was like ‘Whoa! What happened here?” Winfrey said.

A clip from the interview was shared on the “CBS Mornings'” TikTok page, which received millions of views and thousands of comments within days of its release. Many were glad she responded including one that said, “This is why I love Oprah. she thought and observed every angle in this situation and she spoke with sense, compassion and integrity. Bravo Oprah.”

However, several commenters were simply not buying her take on the Maui backlash.

“Did Oprah just double down and gaslight us??”

“Of course she goes on the show that has her best friend on it. She surrounds herself with enablers.”

RELATED: Outraged Hawaii Resident Blames Oprah Winfrey for Maui Wildfires Amid Reports About Her Growing Popularity on Social Media

“She didn’t address why people were so upset with her asking us poor folk to give when her and her billionaire friends could take care of this.”

“There are people who are putting 8 dollars of gas in their tank just to get to work. She has enough to buy and rebuild the entire island. She should do that.

Working with her team, Oprah said she and The Rock set up the infrastructure for the People’s Fund of Maui to vet and process people in order to start giving away the grants soon. She said they have already approved 2,200 people to receive deposits in the accounts shortly.


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