Apparently, conservatives are having an impact.

Target—no doubt with an eye to the massive losses Bud Light is experiencing after its partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney—announced it’s going to make some changes to its retail stores’ Pride Month product placement and line-up, after significant outcry about its Pride gingerbread houses, onesies, and, oh yes, female swimsuits designed to discreetly hide a penis.

(Photo: Katrina Trinko/The Daily Signal)
(Photo: Katrina Trinko/The Daily Signal)

At least in my local Target this past weekend, the Pride Month display was front and center as you entered the store.

But leftists, horrified at the idea that conservatives might influence a corporation, are striking back—and showcasing their new playbook when a conservative boycott gains traction.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a top national Democrat, tweeted that Target CEO Brian Cornell was “selling out the LGBTQ+ community to extremists.” Just to recap: In Newsom’s mind, the normal thing is to sell Pride products designed by a company that also makes satanic symbols and the extremist thing is to object to that.

Newsom also decided the occasion called for some old-fashioned fearmongering, further tweeting: “There is a systematic attack on the gay community happening across the country. Wake up America. This doesn’t stop here. You’re black? You’re Asian? You’re Jewish? You’re a woman? You’re next.”

Nor was Newsom the only one to take to Twitter. Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson tweeted that Target “must put the products back on the shelves and ensure their Pride displays are visible on the floors.”

“That’s what the bullies want. Target must be better,” she said of the retailer’s changes, adding: “Extremist groups want to divide us and ultimately don’t just want rainbow products to disappear, they want us to disappear.”

Target’s own statement effectively smeared upset customers, as Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., noted on Twitter.

Taking a page from the playbook of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle of “near catastrophic” car chase fame, Target’s statement about the changes implied that objectors to the Pride Month products were torching displays and beating up 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 corporation wrote. “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.”

Now, in this post-Jussie Smollett world, I was skeptical. What were these “threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being”? Was it just someone complaining to an employee that he didn’t like the Pride Month products? What exactly constituted “significant confrontational behavior”?

So I emailed Target, asking for more details. Were any employees or other customers physically threatened, and if so, what was the nature of the threat? Were any police reports filed, and if so, where and when?


Or to put it in formal journalism language: Target did not respond by my deadline.

Which brings us to a story from The Associated Press, which Newsom cited in his tweet. The lede of that article, in ye old days of Wednesday morning, was: “Target is removing certain LGBTQ and Pride month merchandise from its stores nationwide after an intense backlash from some customers, including violent confrontations with its workers.”

Screenshot of Associated Press article accessed at 11:24 a.m. ET, May 24.

Violent confrontations? That sounded worse than a hassled mom—after having to deal with her kid asking her to buy a Pride Month gingerbread house (advertised on Target’s website as “tons of fun for kids”)—telling an employee that she didn’t appreciate the display.

So I emailed The Associated Press to ask the source for the claim that there were “violent confrontations,” given Target’s own statement did not include that language. The article subsequently was updated to include this sentence: “Target said that customers knocked down Pride displays at some stores, angrily approached workers and posted threatening videos on social media from inside the stores.”

Again, what are the specifics? What is a threatening video? What constitutes angrily approaching a worker? How many customers at how many stores knocked down Pride displays?

To be fair, it sounds like a couple of people have shown their dislike of Target’s displays in ways that are inappropriate. One video circulating on Twitter shows a man knocking over a pride display, kicking it, and then spitting on it. That’s not OK—it’s private property.

And of course it’s never OK to threaten to “hunt” any people, as one social media provocateur is reported to have said.

But nor is it OK for Target and the media to imply violence if there in fact isn’t violence. That’s not a light accusation.

Curiously, the lede of The Associated Press article now reads: “Target is removing some items from its stores and making other changes to its LGBTQ+ merchandise nationwide ahead of Pride month after intense backlash from some customers who confronted workers and tipped over displays.”

Asked about why the word “violent” was removed and no correction or editor’s note appended, and whether The Associated Press still believed the word “violent” was accurate, Lauren Easton, vice president of communications, replied by email: “As AP continued to report out the story, we were able to provide more specific examples of the incidents that took place and we updated the story accordingly.”

It’s hard to imagine that The Associated Press would ever accuse a leftist boycott of leading to violence and then just stealth-edit the article.

But make no mistake: This is the Left testing out a new playbook. They’re frightened by what’s happening to Bud Light, which continues to grapple with massive declines in sales. Leftist activists know that having corporations side with them and promote leftist values is crucial to their long-term success.

But what if corporations get scared? What if they realize that a huge chunk of the country—perhaps even the majority—is made up of people who don’t agree with leftists?

What if Bud Light has awakened a sleeping giant?

So it’s time for a new approach: insinuating conservatives are dangerous and a genuine threat to the safety of others.

If Target has receipts, as the kids say when they want proof of something, let’s see them. Let’s see the security camera footage of what exactly made employees feel unsafe. Let’s see the attacks on displays. Let’s hear the threats for ourselves.

After all, we’ve seen proof of violence at Target before.

But it was in 2020, not in 2023, and it wasn’t about Pride Month.

Looters carry items out of a Target store in the aftermath of extensive rioting, looting, and arson overnight in commercial areas of Minneapolis on May 28, 2020. Violent protests over the Monday death of George Floyd, a black man in police custody, rocked a Minneapolis neighborhood for a second straight night as angry crowds looted stores, set fires, and left a path of damage that stretched for miles. (Photo: Scott Takushi/MediaNews Group/St. Paul Pioneer Press/Getty Images)
A looter tries to break into a cash register in the Target store on Lake Street in Minneapolis on May 27, 2020. Looters walked out with merchandise on the second day of protests after the death of George Floyd. (Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune/Getty Images)

There’s no excuse to threaten an employee or destroy private property. (Come on, we’re not in the days of “mostly peaceful” protests anymore, people!)

But nor is there an excuse to smear outraged customers, who are only expressing their views, as perpetrators of violence without also providing substantial evidence.

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