Oprah told camera crews to wait outside the Maui emergency shelter

Oprah Winfrey seems to split her time between Santa Barbara and Maui, Hawaii. Oprah owns a huge estate in Maui, and she was there when wildfires ripped through a historic community last week. The death toll stands at 96 today, and the news out of Hawaii keeps getting more and more grim. Since Oprah was on site, she’s been talking to reporters on the ground and calling Gayle King at CBS with updates. I guess people forget that Oprah was a journalist, back in the day, and her journalistic instincts kicked in. There were widespread reports that she tried to bring a camera crew with her while she was visiting one of the shelters but she was turned away. But Maui officials have actually stepped in and clarified what actually happened:

Oprah Winfrey had been reportedly turned away from visiting a shelter for survivors of the wildfires in Hawaii and Maui officials are clearing up the situation.

“To clarify, Oprah was able to visit our shelter and we thank her for instructing media journalists and camera crews to remain outside,” reads a statement shared on Facebook from the County of Maui. “We welcome Oprah to continue to uplift our community’s spirit and give her aloha to victims of the tragic disaster. 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. Mahalo.”

It was reported that the media mogul had arrived with a CBS News crew at the War Memorial Complex in Wailuku but was denied entry. However, after Winfrey instructed cameras to wait outside, she was able to spend time with survivors.

“Out of respect for those who have come to seek safety and shelter at emergency shelters, our policy remains that no media are given access,” read the statement after Winfrey and the camera crew were not given access to go inside the facility. “We welcome Oprah to continue to uplift our community’s spirit and give her aloha to victims of the tragic disaster and appreciate her understanding of our policy of no camera crews or reporters in our emergency shelters. Mahalo.”

[From Deadline]

It sort of sounds like she brought a camera crew and asked if they could come inside, she was told no and then she said “okay” and told her crew to stay outside of the shelter. This wasn’t her sole visit to one of the emergency shelters either – the BBC was on the ground last week, and their reporters spoke to her as she was handing out pillows and care packages to survivors. She also promised to make a “major donation.”

Photos courtesy of Cover Images, Avalon Red.

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23 Responses to “Oprah told camera crews to wait outside the Maui emergency shelter”

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  1. Chaine says:

    The article is really confusing. Did she bring her own camera crew to a shelter or not??? If she brought a camera crew of her own, I have to say regardless of her reasons, on the face of it, that’s a really bad look even if she voluntarily asked them to stay outside.

    • Lemons says:

      Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    • VilleRose says:

      This story is a major news story and there are already camera crews from major networks covering the wildfires. Oprah probably thought she could spread more awareness and get people to donate by speaking to victims of the fires. However, the shelter asked her to leave the cameras at the door and she complied and went inside to meet survivors. The article specifies it was CBS news crews and her BFF Gayle King works for CBS News. So not her own camera crew. I’m not sure what’s so scandalous about that? She listened to the shelter’s rules and followed them.

    • MsIam says:

      No it says she was with the CBS News crew. They were following her. And how is it a bad look? News crews were likely already there and wanted a point person. People go out of their way to slam Oprah, whether she does something or not.

    • Eurydice says:

      From what I can interpret, it looks like CBS news sent a crew to be with her (since she was reporting to CBS). In some places the cameras were welcome and in others not.

    • BlueNailsBetty says:

      @Chaine. It wouldn’t surprise me if she brought a camera crew in an attempt to film footage to get the human interest stories to encourage people to see this as something more than property loss.

      Anytime there is a disaster the media often frames it in how many billions of dollars will be required to fix the property loss in that area. We never hear about the trauma it caused or what is being done to mentally/emotionally support people who have suddenly lost everything.

      And we really need those kinds of stories because there are still a majority of people who don’t believe in climate change. If more human interest stories showed the trauma and its affects on disaster survivors maybe people would be more likely to want our government to actually try to fight climate change.

    • Ameerah M says:

      HOW?? BBC was allowed to have cameras in. There were multiple film crews on site. Considering that she was giving direct on the ground info to Gayle at CBS what makes her crew any different?? And UNLIKE those crews – she was donating money while documenting what was going on.

      • Kebbie says:

        BBC was inside the shelter? Are you sure? I think the footage of her handing out pillows was taken by a civilian cell phone and it just coincided with her speaking to the BBC. I’m pretty sure the blanket policy is “no cameras in the shelters.” These people are traumatized, they don’t want cameras in their faces at their worst moment.

        Good for Oprah for visiting the shelters and doing what she can though. Some people are going to bash her no matter what she does.

  2. Bumblebee says:

    It’s great that she cares. But too early to be at the disaster. Now leaders are having to stop doing their emergency work to give interviews explaining her visit.

    • Dara says:

      I’m the sure the County of Maui has a public affairs official, or press liaison. Or they’ve been loaned one by the state. Making statements to the press is literally their job. I doubt any actual emergency work was neglected.

    • liz says:

      She has had a home on Maui for decades. She was at that home when the fires broke out. This wasn’t a visit or a “let’s go make this about me.” This is “local resident with a global public profile getting media attention on a local disaster.” And yes, to Dara’s comment – explaining her presence and her ties to the community is part of the county press office’s job.

    • BeanieBean says:

      Oprah was in Maui at the time of the fires. Her first instinct was to help, that’s what she did & is doing. Because she’s Oprah, people want to talk to her. Because she’s friends with Gayle King, of CBS News, they wanted to talk to her. ABC talked to Mick Fleetwood. He lives there, he’s helping. Average everyday Hawaiians are helping. Maui residents are helping in spite of the trauma they’re experiencing. It’s a big news story, people will be interviewed, famous and non-famous alike.

  3. UpIn Toronto says:

    Yes but cameras were inside, in the form of camera phones. TikTok has clips of her inside the shelter, graciously giving supplies and comfort to survivors. She is doing her part, would be great if she could call her friend Mark Zuckerberg or his wife to come down from their Hawaii mountain and help the victims

  4. MsK says:

    I don’t think there is anything nefarious here. For those who haven’t been, Lahaina is an historic and culturally important Hawaiian town. It’s not big and showy like Waikiki, mostly smaller wooden buildings, many from the 19th century when Maui was an agricultural center. My mom, her mom, her grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. were all born and raised on Oahu (not native Hawaiian but Japanese immigrants from the early 1800’s) and we spent a lot of time there while I was growing up. I am not a huge Oprah fan (I’ve worked with a few former flight attendants who have SOME STORIES) BUT I genuinely think she is trying to help, not exploit. The islands are small communities and it’s likely she knows many people impacted. It’s really such a tragedy, especially all of the history that was lost.

    • NJGR says:

      @Msk – my sympathy to you and your family; this must be a horribly sad time for you, even if you’re not still there.

    • Twin Falls says:

      I’ve been and I’m devastated for Lahaina and the people of Maui. Oprah owns a lot of property on Maui. I’ve only visited. I can’t imagine living there and not being deeply affected by this tragedy.

      I don’t fault her. Asking people what they need and delivering plus waiting until there’s a better idea of what specifically a monetary donation would best go to are good things.

  5. ME says:

    I saw a news clip of her giving out pillows and bed sheets inside the shelter. So I’m assuming she was allowed to do so? Are we really going to slam her for this? She is doing good and I bet she’s going to do a lot more. She’s a very generous person. But on the other hand, if I was one of those people in that shelter I for sure wouldn’t want a damn camera in my face at a time like that. I hope they asked permission before filming people.

  6. Cosmic Cow says:

    I don’t fault Oprah for her generosity or actions, but I think she needs to understand her fame is overwhelming and probably not helpful at this particular moment. This the time to hear from public officials, FEMA, law enforcement etc.

  7. ky says:

    Black Women can’t catch a break.

    • MsIam says:

      We really can’t. People are slamming Zuckerburg for allegedly doing nothing, but here is Oprah giving out free supplies and she gets knocked too. Fck people.

  8. Tisme says:

    Not a fan of Oprah & think she is more of a distraction than a help, trying to bring a camera crew into a shelter.

  9. Rea says:

    I agree. Her intentions were good but the end result did not come out well.

  10. Truthbetold says:

    I live in Maui and we are absolutely devastated for our island community. We are in east Maui, far from the fires, where Oprah owns over 1200 acres of land. We aren’t stoked on her as she does not really do much for our community. She bought a very sacred piece of land where indigenous Ohanas (families) would go for generations to fish and holoholo (gather)…she built a wall around it and it’s not as accessible as it once was.
    She’s also bought up a lot of the homes near Hamoa beach which is our most utilized and famous beaches. She tried to buy out my friends house (that wasn’t for sale) who have lived there for over 30 years. They told her no.
    She and all of the other billionaires/millionaires that buy up all the property in Hawaii, driving up the rates are a major problem in why Hawaiians can no longer afford to live in the homeland.
    She may be helping and I hope her presence is giving people comfort. Showing up with cameras to a shelter full of vulnerable people that have lost everything including family and the pets… doesn’t feel altruistic. It feels opportunistic.