Amid escalating calls for a boycott, Target will remove certain items from its 2023 Pride Collection due to alleged threats aimed at employees.
“Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work,” the corporate retailer said in a May 24 press release. “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.”
The company, which has offered products that celebrate Pride Month for over a decade, reaffirmed their “commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year.”
The statement comes on the heels of a May 23 report from Fox News that quotes an insider at the company who claimed Target is “terrified of a Bud Light situation.”
“We were given 36 hours, told to take all of our Pride stuff, the entire section, and move it into a section that’s a third the size,” the insider stated. “From the front of the store to the back of the store, you can’t have anything on mannequins and no large signage.”
Target’s 2023 Pride Collection, which includes over 2,000 items of clothing, accessories, party supplies, pet products, and books, has been the subject of controversy since its unveiling earlier this month.
Target is about to become Bud Light 2.0 pic.twitter.com/qdmxM2BiQi
— Citizen Free Press (@CitizenFreePres) May 14, 2023
Users took to social media to express disapproval of “tuck-friendly” swimwear for those who identify as transgender women, Pride-themed onesies and children’s clothing, as well as apparel featuring phrases like “Queer! Queer! Queer! Queer!” and “Trans People Will Always Exist!”
The online reactions to Target’s statement from both sides of the political aisle are reminiscent to Bud Light’s “no-win” situation.
While some boycotted the adult beverage brand over an ad featuring TikTok influencer Dylan Mulvaney, others castigated Anheuser-Busch for acquiescing to demands from those who, in the view of one business owner, “do not support the Trans community and wish to erase LGBTQ+ visibility.”
Conservative commentator Liz Wheeler pointed out that Target did not issue an apology.
“Target doesn’t think they did wrong,” she tweeted on May 24. “Target is blaming YOU, calling you extremists, as their excuse for removing the Satanist items.”
She added: “Do not back down.”
DO NOT fall for Target removing stuff from the Satanist designer from their website.
Target isn’t apologizing.
Target doesn’t think they did wrong.
Target is blaming YOU, calling you extremists, as their excuse for removing the Satanist items.
Do not back down.
— Liz Wheeler (@Liz_Wheeler) May 24, 2023
Benny Johnson, the chief creative officer at Turning Point USA, re-tweeted a CNBC article titled, “Target pulls some Pride collection items after threats to employees.”
“WRONG. Fake Headline,” Johnson said. “Target pulls clothes designed by Satanist to groom children into a sex cult.”
Target pulls clothes designed by Satanist to groom children into a sex cult. https://t.co/bvbbMWiQ0r
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) May 24, 2023
The designer referred to as a Satanist is Erik Carnell, whose UK-based company, Abprallen, collaborated with Target to create three items for their Pride line: a shirt with the message “cure transphobia, not trans people,” a fanny pack that reads “we belong here,” and a messenger bag with a rainbow and spaceship that says “too queer for here.”
The accusations that Carnell, a transgender person who identifies as a man, is a Satanist appear to stem from several items available through Abprallen’s website, but aren’t available from Target. One such item is a pin with a Baphomet logo that says, “Satan respects pronouns.”
The description of the product states that “Satan loves you and respects who you are,” and further claims the Church of Satan is misunderstood and “openly accepts LGBT+ people.” The listing also refers to Baphomet as “a mystical deity [who] themself is a mixture of genders, beings, ideas, and existences.”
Even so, Carnell has denied being a Satanist.
“I don’t believe in Satan. I don’t believe in the Bible. … It’s a metaphor,” Carnell told Daily Dot in an exclusive May 23 interview, adding that such items are meant to be tongue-in-cheek.
Carnell announced his collaboration with Target in a May 9 Instagram post.
“I wanted to create a range that would embrace younger me and tell him that who he is is more than OK, that being trans is special and wonderful and that the closet is not made for him to thrive in,” Carnell wrote. “These [items] have already got the transphobes infuriated with me and I feel like quite the celebrity to think that they believe this is all some big conspiracy and I have any power to brainwash anyone when I’m just some guy drawing pictures!”
As of May 24, the three items Carnell designed are not available on Target’s website.
At the same time Target’s statement was criticized for not going far enough, others claim the statement went too far.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom called out the retailer’s CEO Brian Cornell for “selling out the LGBTQ+ community to extremists.”
“This isn’t just a couple stores in the South,” he wrote. “There is a systematic attack on the gay community happening across the country. Wake up America.”
Newsom added: “This doesn’t stop here. You’re black? You’re Asian? You’re Jewish? You’re a woman? You’re next.”
CEO of Target Brian Cornell selling out the LGBTQ+ community to extremists is a real profile in courage.
This isn’t just a couple stores in the South. There is a systematic attack on the gay community happening across the country.
Wake up America.
This doesn’t stop here.… https://t.co/1vRgukaT0g
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) May 24, 2023
Activist and journalist Erin Reed said the move demonstrates the hypocrisy of “Corporate Pride.”
“It’s not even June, and companies are already acquiescing to the far right and dropping support of LGBTQ+ people,” Reed wrote on Twitter. “Rainbow ‘support’ that vanishes at the first gust of fascist wind was never there to begin with.”
It’s not even June, and companies are already acquiescing to the far right and dropping support of LGBTQ+ people.
Rainbow “support” that vanishes at the first gust of fascist wind was never there to begin with.
Subscribe to support my work.https://t.co/90fSIL9DEs
— Erin Reed (@ErinInTheMorn) May 24, 2023
The Blaze host and columnist Auron MacIntyre said Target is “hilariously” trying to avoid the backlash Bud Light received “by adopting the same middle of the road strategy.”
“They’re trying to pull a head fake, giving one minor concession hoping conservatives will be satisfied,” he said. “Meanwhile they turn to the LGBTQ mob and woke investors with a vague accusation of ‘violence’ which allows them to pretend they are doing this for safety reasons.”
Hilariously Target is trying to avoid a Bud Light backlash by adopting the same middle of the road strategy 1/🧵 https://t.co/fxCIFhdlFD
— Auron MacIntyre (@AuronMacintyre) May 24, 2023
During an appearance on Fortune’s Leadership Next podcast earlier this month, Cornell defended so-called “woke capitalism.”
“I think those are just good business decisions, and it’s the right thing for society, and it’s the great thing for our brand,” Cornell said.
He added: “The things we’ve done from a DE&I [diversity, equity, and inclusion] standpoint, it’s adding value, it’s helping us drive sales, it’s building greater engagement with both our teams and our guests. And those are just the right things for our business today.”
Target and Carnell did not immediately respond to questions submitted by Timcast News.