(KTLA) – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is finally responding to the public backlash over his Maui fundraiser with Oprah Winfrey.
In early August, wildfires tore through the town of Lahaina and killed at least 98 people, and later that month, the two launched a campaign in response, with each of them donating $5 million.
They asked their fans to also contribute, which drew heavy criticism.
Johnson is worth an estimated $270 million, according to Forbes. The outlet calls Johnson the world’s highest-paid actor due to big films like “Black Adam” and “Red Notice.”
Oprah is worth $2.5 billion, according to the site.
On Sunday, Johnson took to Instagram to provide an update on the People’s Fund of Maui.
“I’m very grateful to share with you guys. The thousands and thousands of survivors, (and) the families, have now, over the past couple of weeks, started to receive their first round of funds, they’re receiving their money,” the Teremana Tequila founder explained. “I realized right away what this actually means. And what it means to all of you, as all of you have expressed to me is that this is a step. And for many of you, it’s the first step in getting back up on your feet. And in taking those first couple of steps of life and getting your life back and taking control back of your life.”
While he received messages of gratitude for the fund, he did receive some slamming him for launching the fund.
“When we first launched the fund, there was some backlash,” he said. “I get it and I completely understand, and I could’ve been better. And next time I will be better. I understand money ain’t coming out of the sky and it’s not growing on trees.”
He then went on to explain that before he made it big and he was struggling financially, he would get “p—-d off” and “frustrated” because “the last thing you want to hear when you are living paycheck to paycheck is someone asking you for money, especially when the person asking you for money, already has a lot of money.”
“So I get it. I understand. I’ve never launched a fund before. But I’m a quick study and lesson learned. So thank you. And I also feel that’s one of the greatest things about my social media platforms and the transparency that we have and the relationship that we have that we keep it real,” he continued.
“If I do something you guys love it, you let me know ‘Rock, we love it. Let’s roll.’ If I do something and you hate it? Let me know. ‘Rock. We hate it. Don’t ever do that s–t again,'” he said with a laugh.
At the end of the video, the “Young Rock” star explained that his priority is helping the wildfire victims get back on their feet.
“Why it’s so moving to me and so important to me is that when we’re down and we rise back up, and we do it together, we become one,” he said. “When we become one, we become stronger. That is a reflection of who we are as Polynesian people. It’s like, deep in here. That’s our mana and our spirit in our strength that we get from our ancestors.”
Oprah addressed the backlash in September in an interview with CBS Mornings.
She told the outlet she was “terrorized and vilified online.”
The former talk show host said she was “on the ground talking to lots of people, trying to figure out, how do I best help?”
From there she dropped off generators and towels.
“Then I started talking to people — people really wanted their own agency,” she said.
She was then inspired to start a fund after seeing what Dolly Parton did for those affected by the 2016 wildfires in Sevier County, Tennesee. Parton’s My People Fund gave out $1,000 a month for six months to those who lost their “primary residence” from the fires.
“I thought, ‘Woah, that’s the idea! (Getting the money) directly into the hands of the people,” she explained.
From there, Winfrey decided to partner with Johnson and set up “the infrastructure for the verification process to be able to drop money into people’s accounts.”
“We thought, because both of us have given to charities our whole life, I’ve been giving to charity since my first paycheck. We thought starting the fund with $10 million would be a great idea,” she continued. “I got up the next morning and I saw all of this vitriol and I was like, ‘Woah, what happened here?’”
Winfrey said she still stands by the idea of the fund as people were wondering how they could help those impacted.
“It made me sad that we were at this state in our country,” she said of the backlash.