On Sept. 7, 2023, the celebrity news YouTube channel known as Just In (@JustInCeleb) published a new video about actor Dwayne Johnson and entertainment icon Oprah Winfrey. The video claimed that Johnson, perhaps better known as The Rock, was in a state of "panic" after Winfrey accidentally leaked lies he had told about the Maui wildfires in August.
The video's title read, "5 MINUTES AGO: The Rock PANICS After His LIES About Maui Gets LEAKED."
The YouTube video received nearly 100,000 views in just a few days time. Meanwhile, on TikTok, a repost of the same video received more than 6 million views. In other words, this was no small-time rumor.
In this fact check, we'll dial through how we arrived here. We'll also lay out why this YouTube video was not to be trusted.
Oprah, The Rock, and Dolly Parton
The background of the video's claims about Johnson and Winfrey was that they had teamed up in real life to create the People's Fund of Maui. The fund was established as an effort to provide money to people who had been impacted by the fires that swept across the Hawaiian island. The fires were the deadliest U.S. wildfires in more than a century.
Winfrey owns property on Maui. Realtor.com reports that Johnson had a vacation rental on Oahu and had spent time in Hawaii when he was a child.
In a video posted to their social media pages, Johnson and Winfrey announced that they would be starting the fund with $10 million of their own money. They also instructed viewers about where they could provide their own donations.
In the video, Winfrey said that she was inspired by country music star Dolly Parton's efforts to create her My People Fund that helped victims of the late-November 2016 fire that burned areas in and around Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At that time, Parton had pledged some of her companies' money up front. She also asked for donations. So many donations were raised that, in 2019, the FBI presented Parton's Dollywood Foundation its Director's Community Leadership Award.
The story about Parton doesn't end there, however. Not only did Winfrey say she was inspired by Parton's fund, but Parton's team also consulted with Winfrey's team multiple times following the Maui wildfires to share lessons that they had learned in creating the Smokies fire fund, according to The Associated Press.
We previously published reporting about the fact that video creators and commenters on TikTok and other platforms weren't telling the full truth about Parton's humanitarian efforts in 2016. It appeared that users weren't acknowledging Parton's work simply so they could criticize the fund created by Johnson and Winfrey.
The Video's Title Is False
The video from the Just In YouTube channel that claimed Winfrey had leaked lies told by Johnson about the Maui wildfires included narration with a voice that was generated by artificial intelligence (AI). The script may also have been generated by AI.
The clip began as follows:
AI-VOICED NARRATOR: The Rock is allegedly in panic after the alleged truth about his donation has just been leaked. And guess who is rumored to have accidentally spilled the beans? None other than his supposed partner in crime, [Oprah] Winfrey.
OPRAH WINFREY: Dwayne and I put in $10 million to start the fund. We want to continue as long as we can.
NARRATOR: So, what exactly is going on? In a jaw-dropping turn of events that sent shockwaves through the world of celebrity philanthropy, it seems that the ever-charming Dwayne Johnson and the "queen of talk" shows herself, Oprah Winfrey might not be the altruistic saviors we thought they were. What initially looked like a generous $10 million dollars donation to help the people of Maui, is now being seen in a whole new light, with rumors and whispers swirling about the true motives behind this flashy act of charity.
Just a few days ago, social media was buzzing with excitement as Dwayne Johnson and Oprah Winfrey made headlines by announcing their jaw-dropping donation of $10 million to aid the victims of Maui.
WINFREY: That money is going to go to one of many residents who have been displaced in Maui. We guarantee...
NARRATOR: The news spread like wildfire. Tugging at heartstrings and winning these celebrities a heap of praise from their adoring fans. However, as the days rolled on, it became painfully clear that the reality of their supposed charitable endeavor wasn't quite what it seemed.
As indicated by our "False" fact-check rating at the top of this article, there was no truth to the video's title claiming that The Rock was in a state of panic because Winfrey had leaked his lies about the Maui wildfires. The video never presented any evidence that any of this was true. The clip was nothing more than a classic case of grossly misleading clickbait, as it completely failed to deliver on the promise in its title.
Further, a disclaimer was displayed multiple times on screen that said the video might contain "gossip, rumors, or exaggerated." A longer and even more ridiculous disclaimer in the description under the video also plainly said that its content might include information that's not true. That longer disclaimer read, "Disclaimer: Content might be gossip, rumors, exaggerated or indirectly besides the truth. Viewer advised to do own research before forming their opinion. Content might be opinionated."
We previously published a number of other fact checks about the Maui wildfires that looked at false videos from multiple similar-looking celebrity gossip YouTube channels. For example, in one article, we examined another video from the Just In YouTube channel that had falsely claimed, "The Rock MISTAKENLY Admits SHADY Role In Maui Fires With Oprah."