Some LGBT groups and progressives expressed frustration and disappointment this week with Target over its decision to have some southern locations move their Pride apparel.
A Target insider told Fox News Digital that many locations, mostly in rural areas of the South, have relocated and tamped down Pride sections to avoid the kind of backlash Bud Light has received in recent weeks after using a transgender influencer in a promotional campaign. An “emergency” meeting was held Friday to avoid what a Target insider called a “Bud Light situation,” and the company said it had made the moves in response to threats some of its staff had received for the displays.
However, while some conservatives who disliked the Pride areas may have been briefly assuaged, that opened Target up to criticism from the left.
Dr. David J. Johns of the National Black Justice Coalition, which describes itself as the nation’s foremost Black LGBT civil rights organization, said it was “beyond disappointing” in a statement and the company’s celebration of pride next month would be a fraud.
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“It is beyond disappointing that Target is caving to violent political extremists and betraying its commitment to the LGBTQ+ community by removing and relocating items in its Pride Collection from some of its stores. It’s giving pride pimping, which is beyond problematic,” Johns said in a statement sent to Fox News Digital.
“Let’s be clear: removing items from its Pride Collection, or hiding them in the back of the store – is tantamount to insisting we all go back in the closet. At a time when LGBTQ+ rights and people are under attack, at a time when extremist political forces want to exterminate us, pushing our diverse history, experiences, and ways of being into the shadows – we need everyone to speak out for us – including major corporations like Target, and Budweiser.”
The New York-based gay rights group Hetrick-Martin Institute didn’t directly address Target in a statement to Fox News Digital about the controversy, instead more broadly expressing support for companies and employees working to create “equitable” spaces.
“The growing volume of anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation, especially legislation directed at, and demonizing, transgender people and their families, is fueling the hate and violence against the LGBTQIA+ community across the country. Hetrick-Martin Institute, with a 40-plus history of providing comprehensive mental health services to LGBTQIA+ youth throughout NYC, stands in solidarity with those companies and their employees who are working to create diverse, equitable, inclusive and safe spaces, as they face hateful backlash for their direct support of our community,” the group said.
Other groups were more direct.
“Anti-LGBTQ violence and hate should not be winning in America, but it will continue to until corporate leaders step up as heroes for their LGBTQ employees and consumers and do not cave to fringe activists calling for censorship,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement, according to USA Today. “The fact that a small group of extremists are threatening disgusting and harsh violence in response to Target continuing its long-standing tradition of offering products for everyone should be a wake-up call for consumers and is a reminder that LGBTQ people, venues, and events are being attacked with threats and violence like never before.”
“Target should put the products back on the shelves and ensure their Pride displays are visible on the floors, not pushed into the proverbial closet. That’s what the bullies want,” said Kelley Robinson, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, according to CNN. “Target must be better.”
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One Twitter user encouraged followers to call Target and express what pride merchandise meant to them.
“Calmly explained that as the parent of a queer kid to whom their pride merch has meant a lot I can’t shop at a place willing to sacrifice such kids to placate hate groups. The customer service rep started to cry, and so did I,” he wrote.
The issue also attracted the attention of TV pundits.
Some hosts on the panel of “The View” expressed derision over what they saw as Target’s capitulation on the issue.
“Target did not stand their ground on this,” co-host Joy Behar said on Wednesday.
Added co-host Sunny Hostin: “We need good corporate citizens… I’m very disappointed that a chain like Target couldn’t stand their ground and instead put the LGBTQ+ community in the back of the bus.”
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Left-wing NBC reporter Ben Collins, known for his screeds against media outlets he deems not properly covering the news, scolded on Twitter, “Anyone falling for the extreme far-right’s Target backlash — and framing it as a both-sides debate — are not doing their journalistic duty. They’re repeating a harassment campaign that was telegraphed in public months ago. That is not your job as reporters.”
It even got into the echelons of politics. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, D., who hasn’t been shy about venturing into the culture wars, lambasted Target on Twitter.
In a Wednesday tweet, Newsom declared that Target CEO Brian Cornell was “selling out the LGBTQ+ community to extremists.”
“This isn’t just a couple stores in the South,” Newsom wrote. “There is a systematic attack on the gay community happening across the country.”
Fox News Digital first reported the decision by Target to move its apparel. The company later released a statement this week confirming it had done so in response to threats.
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“Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and wellbeing while at work,” a spokesperson said. “Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior. Our focus now is on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year.”
Fox News’ Anders Hagstrom and Brian Flood contributed to this report.