Backlash and calls from conservatives to boycott Target over Pride-themed products, including reported threats to store employees, is “literally terrorism,” an economist said on Thursday.
Target was prompted to remove its Pride-themed products after threats were reportedly made to store employees in the midst of anti-LGBTQ+ backlash. The retailer will be pulling the items “at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior” from customers, Kayla Castaneda, a Target spokesperson, said on Tuesday.
The decision to pull the products from some stores in the South comes just days before the beginning of Pride month in June. It also comes after recent calls from conservatives to boycott the beer brand Bud Light for its partnership with transgender influencer and activist Dylan Mulvaney. A Target spokesperson told Insider on Thursday that removing the Pride-products was a response to “threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and wellbeing.”
Justin Wolfers, a professor of Public Policy and Economics at the University of Michigan, said on The 11th Hour on MSNBC that he finds the response from Target “quite scary.”
“One of two things are true. It could be they are cowards and they use that as protection and a smokescreen so they could make a cowardly decision, or it could be that they are actually genuinely concerned about the well-being of their employees and they have had credible threats,” Wolfers explained on Thursday.
He continued: “If that is the case, when Target caves into this, then it says that the moment you threaten the employees of even a very large corporation, you get to control its policies. This is economic terrorism, literally terrorism, creating fear among the workers and forcing the corporations to sell the things you want, not sell the things you don’t.”
Target CEO Brian Cornell recently sent a letter to employees, obtained by Insider, saying, “To our team in Stores: thank you for steadfastly representing our values. No one is better at working through uncomfortable situations in service to an inclusive guest experience. What you’ve seen in recent days went well beyond discomfort, and it has been gut-wrenching to see what you’ve confronted in our aisles.”
Meanwhile, several brands have been targeted by conservatives over advocating for the LGBTQ+ community. Experts have said such campaigns provide a chance for brands to expand their customer base as they eye new markets, but critics have accused companies of alienating their long-time traditional consumers.
The conservative-led boycotts come during a time in which transgender rights have also been heavily targeted in ways that include proposing anti-trans legislation in Republican-led states.
Data from the Pew Research Center last year showed that a majority of the United States favor laws that would protect transgender individuals from discrimination. However, a recent Washington Post poll found clear majorities of Americans backing Republican-led restrictions that impact transgender children, including limits on gender-affirming care and other policies that LGBTQ+ advocates say help decline suicide rates among transgender youth.
Newsweek reached out by email to Wolfers for additional comment.
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