The student news site of Potomac Falls High School

The Roar

The student news site of Potomac Falls High School

The Roar

The student news site of Potomac Falls High School

The Roar

Oprah Under Fire?


Ill-intentioned philanthropy and malicious cash-grabs, Is the public catching onto the one percent’s greed and detachment?

As Maui burned and America watched, the exploitative practices of the top one percent loomed over the suffocating smog.

In August 2023, the Lahaina fires swept through the Hawaiian Island of Maui incurring mass devastation. 115 deaths and mass displacement of natives fueled the devastation and Maui’s plea reached international shores. 

As everyone paid their respects to the victims on the international stage, television stars Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson took to social media to announce their latest philanthropic endeavor, “The People’s Fund of Maui.” Millions tuned in and watched the duo express their concerns for the victims. 

The seemingly well-intentioned video quickly turned sour as Winfrey and Johnson turned to the American public requesting donations. This opened the floodgates and nearly 60,000 comments under the original video criticized the duo’s intentions. Netizens were quick to point out that Winfrey and Johnson donated barely 0.5% of their collective net worths, $2.3b and $800m, respectively (Forbes).

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A user expressed their frustration, saying, “Girl you got some nerve asking us working class people who can barely afford to put food on the table for our families to donate…why don’t you ask your millionaire/billionaire buddies to help.” 

With 38 million Americans living below the poverty line and 60 percent living paycheck to paycheck amidst a national recession (US Census Bureau), the public’s frustration with the top one percent’s requests were amplified. 

The situation worsened as users went on deep dives, revealing that Winfrey owns 13 properties scattered across the Hawai’ian islands and hired a private firefighting team to preserve her 1,000 acre estate in Maui (Architectural Digest). Combined with her private security team tasked with keeping natives seeking refuge from the fires, she was met with severe skepticism which fueled the tensions. 

Users highlighted how frequently the top one percent has used natural disasters to set up philanthropic charities, only to use them as tax-write offs. Calling Winfrey’s “concerns for Maui” hypocritical, they suggested asking her billionaire contacts to assist with Maui instead of an already starving public. 

Pacific Islanders frequently protest their lands being exhausted and destroyed by corporations to accommodate the increasing waves of tourism. The natives of the Hawai’ian islands have long expressed their disdain for what they call “modern day colonization” as their native lands are gentrified and stolen from them. Exposés frequently reveal shady real estate deals orchestrated by the top one percent that prey on the victims of natural disasters to buy lands for pennies on the dollar. With growing intolerance for ill-intentioned philanthropy, America is witnessing a growing distrust in the wealthy. 

With the rise in criticism, some people took to Winfrey and Johnson’s defense. Some claimed that the duo’s race caused a harsher response from the public, expressing that their white counterparts wouldn’t be as critically judged and applauded the duo for being one of the few influential people to take action and help. 

“Every few months there’s a misogynistic hate train that targets a powerful woman to tear her down, and people blindly follow,” a user commented under the original video. 

The internet, as always, remains divided over the topic and new information sways people in favor and against daily. What is for sure is that current economic and climate situations have fostered a growing intolerance for the practices that the public would let slide a couple years ago.