Oprah Winfrey was shocked and saddened after she was “terrorized and vilified online” for her Hawaii relief fund.
The TV titan teamed up with wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and formed the People’s Fund of Maui to help all those affected by the devastating wildfires in August which claimed 115 lives and destroyed homes and businesses across the island. Winfrey and The Rock donated $5 million each to get the organization started.
However, Winfrey has admitted she was surprised by the backlash she received from trolls who accused the wealthy star of hypocrisy by asking her less well-off followers to donate cash. During an interview on “CBS Mornings,” she cited her new book about happiness and said of the trolling: “Well, 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, because I was thinking, what if I didn’t really know who I am? It will take you out. So all of the online attacks, lies, conspiracy theories, really took the focus off of what was the most important thing, which is the people of Maui.”
Winfrey – who has a home in Maui – explained the idea for the fund came from previous charity efforts by singer Dolly Parton, who raised millions to help victims of the 2017 wildfires which devastated the city of Gatlinburg, Tennessee and made sure the money went straight into the hands of those who needed it.
“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. We’ll do what Dolly did, get other people to give money and then we’ll put it directly into 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 vitriol, and I was, like: ‘Whoa, what happened here?’ This is what I want to say. I want to say that, in the beginning, so many people were calling, asking: ‘Where do we give our money to?’ So I thought, I’m going to give people a place to give it. We’re going to create something and I still think it’s a really strong idea,” Winfrey explained. “Dolly Parton was right. Putting money directly in 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 are gonna have the money put into their account.”
She concluded that the backlash over the fund made her feel “sad that we’re in this state in our country.”