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Democrat prosecutors sent a letter to Target Corp. after it removed some of its “Pride Month” merchandise last month in the midst of boycotts.
A coalition of 15 Democrat attorneys general sent a letter to Target CEO Brian Cornell, saying that the decision to pull LGBT products—including clothing for small children—is a setback for the “march for social progress.”
“While we understand the basis for this action, we are also concerned it sends a message that those who engage in hateful and disruptive conduct can cause even large corporations to succumb to their bullying, and that they have the power to determine when LGBTQIA+ consumers will feel comfortable in Target stores—or anywhere in society,” the group wrote in a letter (pdf) on Tuesday.
It’s not clear what bullying or disruptive conduct the attorneys general were referring to. However, there were some reports indicating that Target locations in at least five states received bomb threats, with local news outlets in New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York receiving a threatening email that accused Target of “betraying the LGBTQ+ community.”
Target’s shares have dropped over the past month and a half amid backlash over the company’s “pride collection” merchandise, which included LGBT-themed onesies for babies, kids books, and other items. Of note, some conservative commentators called for a boycott after it was discovered that Target was selling a “tuck friendly” swimsuit apparently targeting biological males who claim to be transgender women, which Target later said was not sold to children.
For example, items that were flagged by social media influencers include a onesie for infants that says “Bien Proud,” a children’s book titled “Twas the Night Before Pride,” and a book that tells children how to use transgender pronouns.
The retail giant’s stock price stood a $160.96 on May 17, right before the boycott erupted. As of Tuesday afternoon, its stock stood at $132.73.
Also, JPMorgan Chase downgraded Target’s stock at the start of the month, as analysts forecast a decline in sales due to sticky inflation. And on June 5, KeyBanc Capital Markets reduced the retailer’s shares to “sector weight” from “overweight,” due to the resumption of student loan payments.
In mid-May, conservative commentator Candace Owens, of the Daily Wire, said that “I cannot state enough how important is for people to choose not to shop at Target” and that “there has never been a company that has been more pro-transgenderism than Target.”
In the midst of the backlash over the items, Target confirmed some products were pulled. Displays centered around “pride month” were also moved, the firm said.
“Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work,” Target said in its statement. “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,” it added.
James’ letter was signed by the Democrat attorneys general of Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington state.
The boycott piggybacked off another one that is currently targeting Bud Light after the light beer company made a promotional package for transgender influencer Dylvan Mulvaney. Shares of Bud Light maker Anhesuer-Busch, too, have also plunged in recent weeks amid the backlash, while sales of Bud Light have posted consecutive weekly losses.
In the long term, some have said that the boycott against Target may not pan out. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) this month responded to the boycott and said that it will be hard to sustain—unlike the Bud Light backlash.
“What really came to bite Bud Light is that wasn’t a hard boycott,” Cruz said in a recent episode of his podcast. “It’s difficult for nobody on planet Earth if you were going to order a Bud Light to say, ‘I’ll have a Coors Light.’ That’s a very simple substitution.”
He added: “Target? We’ll see how prolonged and easy a substitution it is. There’s Walmart. You know, there are alternatives. I will say Targets are located in a lot of areas and very convenient for a lot of shoppers. So we’ll see if this becomes a persistent consequence or not. Conservatives have typically been not very good at boycotts.”