Good Morning America reporter Gio Benitez praised for emotional coverage of Maui wildfires

‘Have you decided where to put the Emmy?’

Olivia Hebert
Los Angeles
Tuesday 22 August 2023 06:55 BST

Good Morning America host Gio Benitez recently opened up about his harrowing experience covering the Maui wildfires on Instagram. In his comment section, there was an outpour of support from audiences and fans alike, with some hailing the host’s coverage as “Emmy-worthy”.

Beneath a photo of a Maui sunset taken on 8 August, Benitez wrote that he had taken the photo at 6.46 pm that day, and that he and his husband ExtraTV correspondent, Tommy DiDario, had been on vacation and “like so many on the island,” were unaware that Maui was on fire.

When executive producer Simone Swink and senior broadcast producer Pete Austin finally got in contact with Benitez around midnight, it was then that the reporter was made aware of the gravity of the situation, after they “voiced concern” for his safety.

“We immediately went to work,” Benitez said, explaining that fellow reporters Whit Johnson and Maui-born Becky Worley flew in to join him in covering the disaster. Together, they created a special edition of Good Morning America called “Maui Strong,” in which they not only “met survivors and heroes” but also saw the “devastation” wrought upon the island. The special, Benitez wrote, “helped raise over a million dollars for relief efforts”.

“It was a time for reflection, but also a time to look at the best in humanity,” the GMA host continued. “And allowed us - even for a brief moment - to smile.”

He implored people to continue to keep the “people of Hawai’i” on their minds and consider donating to ongoing relief efforts as officials continue searching for answers about the factors that led the wildfires to be as lethal as they became.

His GMA co-host Rebecca Jarvis commended him for his sensitive portrayal of the disaster: “From the start, you’ve handled this story with great care and heart. So proud of you and the team.”

Below the post, fans expressed their support. One wrote that Benitez’s coverage brought them to tears and added: “Have you decided where to put the Emmy?” Another fan said: “You are a true professional with a lot of heart, feelings, and emotions. You are your honest self, and we all love you for you.”

“Thank you for putting so much energy into the work you do,” another praised Benitez. “The birdie at the end. Spirit renewed.”

At the end of his carousel of photos, Benitez included a photo of a red-crested cardinal. The GMA host wrote that he added the cardinal at the end because when it stopped and stared at him as he ate his breakfast, he felt like its presence was “somehow reminding [him] of the gift of life”.

Throughout his coverage of the disaster, Benitez had been incredibly moved by the Maui community as they banded together amid uncertainty. During a GMA report on 14 Aug, Benitez cried on air after anchor Robin Roberts asked him how he was faring.

“It’s incredible to see the spirit of ‘Aloha’ play out in real-time,” he told Roberts.  “We were watching as so many people came together,” he continued as tears streamed down his face. “They dropped everything to help each other. And that was incredibly inspiring to witness here. In the midst of all this sadness, we’re really seeing all of these people lift each other up.”

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