After the devastating wildfires that started in the Lahaina area of the Hawaiian island of Maui, several celebrities have been criticized for how they responded to the historic tragedy.
Oprah Winfrey was recently filmed helping to hand out supplies to Maui residents who had sought refuge in a local gymnasium. Winfrey owns more than 1,000 acres of land on Maui, according to Hawaii News Now.
Winfrey was reportedly initially denied entrance to the temporary shelter because she sought to bring a TV crew with her.
Over the weekend, Maui officials shed light on what really went down.
“To clarify, Oprah was able to visit our shelter and we thank her for instructing media journalists and camera crews to remain outside. We welcome Oprah to continue to uplift our community’s spirit and give her aloha to victims of the tragic disaster,” the statement read.
“Her visit inside of the shelter today was truly heartwarming and we appreciate her understanding of our policy of having no camera crews or reporters accompanying dignitaries and celebrities in our emergency shelters.”
In an Instagram post earlier this week, Winfrey promised to “make a major donation” to help the island recover from the damage it suffered last week.
Commenters online were quick to criticize Winfrey for her response and the fact that she owns land on the island.
Another added, “Oprah you have 1000 acres! Lahaina is 1600 acres. You could give up only half your acreage and provide housing for probably all of the displaced residence. … There’s a simple solution. The land you bought was illegally sold bc it is illegally occupied! This is the right thing to restore justice.”
“Thank goodness for this!! We are going through a crisis, Maui doesn’t need to encourage publicity stunts,” commented one person on Facebook regarding TV crews being turned away from the Maui shelter.
“If Oprah wants [to] come that’s great! Put the cameras away and do something out of the goodness of your heart. Not for clout,” chimed in another person on Facebook.
Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks similarly got flak for the message she shared on Instagram regarding the wildfires.
“As I am sure you have heard — the island, Maui, where I own a house I have been staying at since the 80s — and the small village, city, most magical place on earth, Lahaina, burned to the ground over the last few days,” Nicks wrote.
“And to make the situation worse my young niece, her husband, and their little boy had just arrived for a very needed vacation before she started up her school year (on her way to becoming a psychologist) for 10 days. They had one and a half days of fun and then — the fire started.”
The “Edge of Seventeen” singer would go on to explain that the embracing community of Lahaina was what most drew her to Maui.
“My truth was that I wanted a house here just so I could spend time in Lahaina walking the streets; visiting the art galleries — sitting on the rock wall,” Nicks’ message continued. “Most all the opals I wear on my fingers came from a store on Front Street. I hope the sweet lady who owned that store was able to grab all her opals and run. I hope she made it out.”
One commenter responding to Nicks’ statement wrote on Instagram, “Oh Stevie, love you but Native Hawaiians lost their homes for generations to come, your niece, at best, vacation was ruined, this is not what you should’ve posted.”
“Lmaooo is this FOR REAL? You’re admitting to colonizing an island and sad your rich family’s vacation got ruined?” someone else wrote.
Another person in the comments section expressed disappointment with Nicks, writing, “Stevie, I love you, but Native Hawaiian’s have been begging people who are not Indigenous to Hawaii to stop moving there and vacationing there.”
Paris Hilton was photographed over the weekend smiling on a Maui beach alongside her husband, Carter Reum, and their 8-month-old son — just 30 miles from where 106 have been found dead and 1,300 more are still unaccounted for in Lahaina.
“A perfect example of the juxtaposition between the wildfire devastated part of Hawaii and the tourist part of Hawaii; the locals and the tourists…” someone wrote in a post on X.
Another X user posted, “Paris hilton is vacationing in Maui at a resort 30 min from Lahaina. Imagine watching thousands of ppl lose their homes, loved ones, families etc and then expecting them to SERVE YOU DRINKS WHILE U FROLIC ON THE BEACH INFRONT OF THEM OMG.”
The Maui fires are now the deadliest in the U.S. in the last century, surpassing the 2018 Camp fire that destroyed the Northern California town of Paradise and killed 85 people.
The fire broke out on Aug. 8 in Lahaina and was initially “100% contained,” as officials said then, but that afternoon it flared up. By then, the threat of wildfires had been well-known for days, with the National Weather Service warning Aug. 4 of “high fire danger,” given the dry weather and “strong and gusty trade winds.”
Click here for a list of trusted organizations accepting donations to help victims of the wildfires.
Times staff writers Jack Dolan and Matt Hamilton and editor Craig Nakano contributed to this report.