On Sept. 3, 2023, the celebrity gossip YouTube channel named Just In (@JustInCeleb) published an 11-minute video with the title, "The Rock MISTAKENLY Admits SHADY Role In Maui Fires With Oprah." The video was viewed more than 100,000 times in just two days.
In the thumbnail image for the video, it claimed that Dwayne Johnson, better known as The Rock, had purportedly admitted to a "shady role" in the August 2023 Maui wildfires and then publicly pleaded, "Please, forgive me." The image also showed entertainment icon Oprah Winfrey. Winfrey owns property on Maui, while Realtor.com reports that Johnson has a vacation rental on Oahu and had spent time in Hawaii when he was a child.
The video (archived) was narrated by a voice that had been generated by artificial-intelligence (AI) tools. It began as follows:
TIKTOK USER #1: Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne Johnson, you know the guy who plays the same character in every f*cking movie, decided to take it upon themselves to ask you for your money.
OPRAH WINFREY: We have created the People's Fund of Maui. So, if you send a donation, just click where you see below, and send a donation.
TIKTOK USER #2: Please don't tell me I just saw a billionaire standing next to a multi-millionaire begging the average, everyday citizens for donations that can barely get by.
AI-VOICED NARRATOR: It seems like our beloved actor, The Rock, might have found himself in some hot water after taking an unexpected dip in the drama pool with none other than the queen of talk show herself, Oprah Winfrey. Get ready for the tea, because this story is sizzling.
The Rock, known for his legendary muscles and action-packed movies, has unintentionally found himself in the middle of a scandal that's hotter than a Maui volcano. Apparently, he and Oprah are now entangled in some eyebrow-raising alleged shady dealings concerning a mysterious fire in the beautiful paradise of Maui. Who would have thought, right?
However, the rumor in the video's title that Johnson had "mistakenly [admitted]" to a "shady role" in the Maui fires, implying that he was involved in the starting of the blaze, was made up. Further, he never begged for forgiveness, as claimed by the thumbnail image.
In the latter half of the video, the AI-voiced narrator claimed that Johnson was a fan of "Hollywood elites" and had "[promoted] their evil agendas," later implying several times that he had also been involved in pedophilia. As readers might guess, such conspiracy theories are completely unfounded.
A disclaimer was displayed on screen during the video. A longer version of the disclaimer was also included in the description, which 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."
The whole video appeared to have been created simply to earn YouTube advertising revenue based on tapping into the politics and emotions of viewers who might place blind trust in its claims. Such viewers might choose to head directly to the comments to post negative remarks about Johnson and Winfrey instead of exercising critical thinking and research to figure out if they had been misled by the video's title, thumbnail image, and content.
Part of the video concentrated on the fact that Johnson and Winfrey had recorded a video announcing their creation of the People's Fund of Maui. The fund was designed to provide money to residents who were unable to return to their homes following the fires, which were the deadliest U.S. wildfires in more than a century.
The Associated Press reported that the People's Fund of Maui was initially set up to provide payments of $1,200 per month to affected residents. Johnson and Winfrey each gave $5 million of their own money to start the fund. They also provided information about how people can donate.
Johnson and Winfrey said they were inspired by a similar plan previously created by country star and multi-millionaire Dolly Parton following fires that swept through east Tennessee in November 2016. Those funds were also raised through donations, according to KnoxNews.com and DollyParton.com.
We previously reported about a rumor similar to the one in the video above that claimed Winfrey had revealed Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks also had a "shady role" in the Maui wildfires. That, too, was false.