Oprah Winfrey is all smiles as she waves to her fans as she leaves Cinemacon after promoting 'The Color Purple' in Las Vegas

Oprah Winfrey Breaks Silence About Backlash From Maui Wildfire Donations: 'What Happened Here?'

Home / Top Stories / Oprah Winfrey Breaks Silence About Backlash From Maui Wildfire Donations: 'What Happened Here?'

By Fiyin Olowokandi on September 13, 2023 at 10:00 PM EDT

Oprah Winfrey is finally addressing the online hate she received for trying to help the victims of the Maui wildfires!

In the wake of the terrible disaster that befall the Hawaiian Island in August, the billionaire businesswoman teamed up with Dwayne Johnson to create the "People's Fund of Maui." They each supported the project with $5 million from their pockets and implored others to donate.

However, the dynamic duo's willingness to help the devastated community wasn't well met. Many, including stars like Nick Cannon, bashed the pair for seeking help from the public, given their vast fortunes.

Weeks after the backlash, the TV personality got candid about her feelings.

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Oprah Winfrey Says Criticisms Over Maui Relief Fund Made Her More Compassionate

The Kosciusko native recently sat down with the hosts of CBS Mornings alongside her co-author, Arthur C. Brooks, to promote their latest book, "Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier."

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Statue Of Liberty Museum Opening Celebration - Oprah Winfrey
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When asked about her thoughts on the negative feedback she received for launching the "People's Fund of Maui," the media personality claimed she had nothing but love in her heart. Referencing her new book, the first female black billionaire said:

"This is a really great point about being happier in the midst of an onslaught of being terrorized and vilified online. I will say this I came out of this experience with so much more compassion for young kids."

"The Oprah Winfrey Show" host confessed that the online hate would have negatively impacted her life if she did not have the "assurance of Invictus," which made her aware that she was in charge of her fate and soul.

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Despite the insults, the entertainer was more concerned about the people of Maui and felt terrible that the focus went from these critical figures to what the public believed she did wrong. Before coming up with the fundraiser project, Winfrey revealed she had been working behind the scenes to figure out the best way to help the island.

The Kosciusko native revealed that she initially supported the victims by giving out "material things" like "generators and towels." But when she asked people what they needed, they asked for their agency.

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Then Gayle King's son sent her an article about Dolly Parton's people fund during the 2017 Gatlinburg wildfires. Inspired by the country music icon, she worked with The Rocks's team to create a structure to put the raised funds directly into the people's bank accounts.

"I was so excited. I was so excited about it, and then I got up the next morning, and I saw all of this abuse, and I was, like, 'Whoa, what happened here?'" The 69-year-old confessed.

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Although she claimed the negativity made her "sad that we're in this state in our country," Winfrey stressed she was not backing down. "I still think it's a solid idea. Dolly Parton was right. Putting money directly into the hands of the people is a significant thing."

"And the model that has been created, I will say that as of today, 2,200 people have been cleared and verified, and those people are gonna get a notice from the People's Fund of Maui and will have the money," the business tycoon revealed.

Nick Cannon Criticized Oprah Winfrey & Dwayne Johnson For Seeking Donations

Days before the media mogul addressed the backlash she received for her Maui fundraiser, Nick Cannon slammed her and the Johnson. The comedian attacked the duo during an episode of "The Daily Cannon Show."

During the live radio session, the "Love Don't Cost A Thing" actor and his co-hosts weighed in on the criticisms the pair received because they asked for funds despite their wealthy status. Joining the hate train, the father of twelve claimed the backlash made "perfect sense."

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"They are the richest people in the world," the TV personality fired back when co-host Courtney Bee disagreed with his statement. Fellow presenter Mason Moussette supported Cannon, claiming Winfrey and Johnson should feel obligated to help. "I think it's a part of your responsibility to give back," she said.

When Bee praised the Kosciusko native for doing more than enough to support the people of Maui with her relief provisions, the "Wild 'n Out" star reaffirmed his dislike for Winfrey's methods. "It's in poor taste for a billionaire to ask anyone for money. I don't care what the situation is," the 42-year-old declared.

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