Dwayne Johnson says he’s been moved by all the messages he’s received from survivors that have benefited from The People’s Fund of Maui following last month’s wildfires, but that he also appreciates those who spoke openly about their issues with the fund.
The actor and producer responded to the public criticism of the fund, which he launched with Oprah Winfrey in late August, in an Instagram video published over the weekend. The Entertainment Industry Foundation fund launched with an initial $10 million donation from Winfrey and Johnson, but asked global community members to pitch in to support $1,200 per month donations to those displaced by the wildfires in Lahaina and Kula.
While Winfrey said the idea for the fund had come from a similar effort made by beloved musician Dolly Parton, it was met with criticism by some who argued that people of Winfrey’s and Johnson’s level of wealth could have simply put more into the fund themselves instead of asking for monetary support from those with less means.
“When we first launched the fund, there was some backlash,” Johnson said in an Instagram video published Sunday that confirmed the first round of support had gone out to members of the Maui community. “I get it and I completely understand, and I could’ve been better — and next time I will be better.”
In the video’s caption, Johnson addressed the backlash again, sharing that those in his social media community “only know how to be REAL with each other.”
“You always tell me the truth — good or bad — I’ll always appreciate and protect that straight talk between us, you have my word to always listen, learn, grow and do better,” he continued. “I’ve never launched a fund before — trust me, I’m a quick study and learn my lessons fast. I totally get it and I appreciate you.”
During the Instagram video, Johnson also addressed the “strength of our people” in Maui, calling the resilience of the displaced islanders “beautiful and inspiring.”
“Watching families and community come together after this tragedy is inspirational, and I’m proud of our Polynesian people. Thank you to everyone who has helped by sending resources, love and prayers to all people affected by the fires and a loving mahalo and RESPECT to our OG cultural leaders, our local community organizations, and all our first responders and every person who came together to help our people,” he added.
Last month, Winfrey shared her reaction to the backlash over the fund, stating that the criticisms of her and Johnson frequently took away from the community, which needed attention.
“I was so excited about it. Then, I got up the next morning, and I saw all of this vitriol, and I was like, ‘Whoa, what happened here?’” Winfrey said during a CBS Mornings appearance. “All the online [conversations] — being slammed, lies, conspiracy theories — really took the focus off of what was the most important thing and that was the people of Maui.”
Winfrey expressed that the fund, which at the time of her September interview had verified 2,200 wildfire victims looking to receive cash support according to the media mogul, wasn’t the end-all to the giving, but a pipeline for people who were looking for a way to directly help.
“I think, in the beginning, so many people were calling asking, ‘Where do we give our money to?’ So, I thought, ‘I’m gonna give people a place to… We’re gonna create something,’” she recalled. “Putting money directly into the hands of the people is a significant thing.”