American actor and film producer Dwayne Johnson has spoken out after facing backlash for asking people to donate to a Maui wildfire recovery fund, reported People.
On August 31, the actor, 51, joined up with Oprah Winfrey to start the People’s Fund for Maui, with the pair contributing a combined $10 million. However, their request for public donations drew considerable criticism.
The Young Rock musician, who used to live in Hawaii, addressed the outrage in a video uploaded on his Instagram page on Sunday.
“When we first launched the fund, there was some backlash that came with launching the fund, and I want to address that backlash,” he told his followers. “I get it, and I completely understand, and I could have been better. And next time, I will be better.”
He also said he understands that “money ain’t falling out of the sky, and it’s not growing on trees,” and that many Americans are “living paycheck to paycheck” right now.
“I get it. I know what it’s like. I’ve lived paycheck to paycheck,” he continued. “When you are living paycheck to paycheck, the last thing you want to hear is someone asking you for money, especially when the person asking you for money already has a lot of money.”
According to People, Johnson conceded that he could have handled things better and that the situation has been a learning experience for him.
“I’ve never launched a fund before, but I’m a quick study,” he noted.
In the caption accompanying his video, he thanked his followers for giving him constructive feedback.
“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 wrote.
Before addressing the criticism, Johnson shared a positive update regarding the fund in his video.
“I have some great news, some awesome news actually, that I’m very grateful to share with you guys,” he said. “The thousands and thousands of survivors, the families, have now, over the past couple of weeks, started to receive their first round of funds. They’re receiving their money, and I gotta tell you, it’s been the most gratifying and moving thing.”
Johnson and Winfrey, 69, said in a video at the time of the fund’s launch that people who lost their primary homes in the Lahaina and Kula fires would be eligible for $1,200 each month to assist them get back on their feet.
The talk show icon shared in the video that the idea for the fund was inspired by Dolly Parton’s long history of philanthropy. “I read this article that Dolly Parton had given money in her community, and I said, ‘I think this is the answer,’” said Winfrey, a part-time resident of Maui.
Winfrey and Johnson went on to say that they wanted the money to reach people’s hands “with some real immediacy” so that they could direct their own recovery journey.
“People being able to have their own agency, being able to make decisions for themselves about what they need and what their family needs — that’s our goal, is to get that to the people now,” Winfrey said.