Acclaimed professional wrestler turned actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is finally speaking out on the backlash he faced upon launching a fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Dora and the ensuing wildfires across the island of Maui, Hawaii. Johnson launched The People’s Fund Of Maui alongside philanthropist, actress, and longtime television host Oprah Winfrey this summer.
Johnson appeared to take the criticisms surrounding the fund to heart, vowing to do better the next time he involves himself with a philanthropic cause. “When we first launched the fund, there was some backlash. I get it and I completely understand, and I could’ve been better. And next time I will be better,” Johnson said in a video posted to his Instagram on Sunday.
One of the primary criticisms of the fund was that it invited donors to contribute to it, instead of Johnson and Winfrey donating portions of their sizable wealths themselves. Johnson empathized with the financial hardships many Americans face in the tail end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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. And I get it, and I know what that’s like,” recalled Johnson. “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.”
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“I get it, I understand. I’ve never launched a fund before, but I’m a quick study and lesson learned,” Johnson said on the matter.
The People’s Fund of Maui was started in August, with both Winfrey and Johnson donating $5 million each to get it started. Victims of the Maui wildfires left homeless in the Lahaina and Kula areas were eligible to receive $1200 a month from the organization. Winfrey previously spoke out on the controversial fundraising model.
Winfrey claimed that she was on the ground on the island and wanted to evaluate what to do based on the needs of the people. The host modeled the fund created alongside Johnson after a similar wildfire relief fund created by country star Dolly Parton. Winfrey claimed that a fund would help get the money to the people faster, and confirmed that herself and Johnson started the fund with $10 million.
Oprah Winfrey responds to online criticism about the creation of the People’s Fund of Maui: “Attacks, lies, conspiracy theories really took the focus off of what was the most important thing and that was the people of Maui.” pic.twitter.com/nRQ6Y0wi2S
— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) September 12, 2023
Elsewhere, others alleged that Winfrey hired private teams to protect her property on the island, and refused to house displaced people on her land.
The People’s Fund of Maui continues to raise money at this time, with the first round of checks having been sent out, as according to Johnson.