A conservative legal group is suing Target over shareholder losses following a right-wing boycott in protest of the big box retailer’s Pride Month displays featuring LGBTQ-themed merchandise.
The lawsuit, filed last week by America First Legal Foundation, claims Target misled investors when it claimed it was monitoring risks related to its diversity, equity, and inclusion policies.
Harnessing populist anger over LGBTQ visibility, including a handful of items marketed to children, conservatives demanded a boycott of the chain, accusing the company of going “woke” by celebrating June as Pride Month, despite the retailer having sold Pride-themed merchandise in June for years.
Others accused the retailer of seeking to “groom” or “indoctrinate” children into identifying as LGBTQ by promoting Pride-themed items.
Right-wing pundits and influencers recently aimed their sights on companies that embrace Pride Month, with anti-LGBTQ influencer Matt Walsh arguing that conservatives should intentionally “make ‘Pride’ toxic for brands.”
Walsh specifically pointed to Target and Bud Light as consumer boycotts that successfully and negatively impacted the bottom line of “woke” companies.
As a result of the boycott, Target’s stock price has fallen almost 20% since mid-May, reports The Washington Post.
Target employees — many of whom are not involved in managerial decisions — were accosted by conservative TikTokers and influencers in videos that went viral. Stores reported receiving threats of violence, including bomb threats.
The investor at the center of the lawsuit is Brian Craig, a Florida resident who spent around $50,000 for 216.450 shares of Target stock in April 2022. A year later, the value of his holdings had fallen to $34,839, and subsequently dropped to $28,896 by June 14, when the most intense backlash against the store had played out, according to the lawsuit.
On behalf of Craig, America First Legal argues that Target’s loss in market capitalization is a “direct and predictable result of management’s calculated decisions to promote sexualized material to children,” referring to the Pride merchandise.
Filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, the lawsuit asserts that acknowledging Pride or LGBTQ existence is inherently “sexual” in nature.
“These false and misleading statement [made by Target about its Pride Month promotions] caused Target’s shareholders to unknowingly support Target’s Board and management in their misuse of investor funds to serve its divisive political and social goals — and ultimately lose billions,” the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit comes weeks after seven Republican attorneys general wrote to Target’s chairman and CEO, Brian Cornell, warning the company — in a rambling, unfocused screed filled with factually untrue assertions — that it could face legal liability for selling Pride-themed items in stores.
That letter asserted that the Pride Month campaigns may have violated state laws aimed at protecting children from “inappropriate content” and violated the company’s fiduciary duties to shareholders by promoting a divisive social agenda bound to garner backlash.
America First Legal is led by former Trump White House adviser Stephen Miller and has billed itself as a right-wing alternative to the American Civil Liberties Union. The lawsuit continues a pattern of behavior for America First, in which a company’s shareholder losses were presumably linked to right-wing boycotts, are used to pressure those companies into withdrawing their support for the LGBTQ community and causes.
As noted by the Post, America First worked with shareholders of the supermarket giant Kroger in April to sue the Securities and Exchange Commission over the company’s hiring policies, which they claim failed to protect prospective employees from discrimination based on “viewpoint” or “ideology.”
America First Legal has also filed numerous complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over companies’ diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, which it has claimed encourage discrimination, especially against white male Americans.
While conservatives frequently employ the “go woke, go broke” mantra to argue that embracing left-wing causes does not sit well with the majority of Americans, it remains to be seen whether America First Legal can actually prove that the company’s losses were caused by the boycott.
Some experts noted that Target’s stock price was on the decline long before conservatives zeroed in on the company for its Pride-themed merchandise.
“It is extremely hard to quantify exactly what role the Pride Month backlash had on the stock price,” Neil Saunders, a managing director for retail at GlobalData, a data and analytics firm that provides business research and marketing services, told the Post. “However, given that there is no data to suggest it had a tangible impact on Target’s sales, it seems highly unlikely that it was the primary cause, or even a major cause, of the decline.”
A federal judge blocked a local "decency ordinance" primarily targeting drag shows, allowing organizers of a Pride festival in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to move forward with their plans to carry out the event.
U.S. District Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr., of the Middle District of Tennessee, signed a temporary restraining order directing the city of Murfreesboro and its officials, including City Manager Craig Tindall, Mayor Shane McFarland, and the Murfreesboro Police Department, not to "enforce or take any action pursuant to the provision to Murfreesboro City Code 21-71 that includes 'homosexuality' within the definition of 'sexual conduct.'"
It's almost December, meaning that not only is the Christmas sales season nearly in full effect, but so is the season of conservative media outlets mercilessly attacking major retailers to gin up outrage.
Since the early 2000s, conservatives have declared there's a "War on Christmas," with the focus of such complaints focusing on some retailers' use of the term "Happy Holidays" instead of Christmas.
The implication of the term -- popularized by conservatives like former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly and radio host John Gibson -- was that schools and corporations had begun censoring any mention of the holiday's Christian roots out of either a desire to be "politically correct" or a mistaken belief that acknowledging the Christian nature of the holiday violated the Constitution.
Libs of TikTok is demanding a boycott of Listerine for packaging featuring Pride-themed illustrations on its bottle. Chaya Raichik, who runs the online account on social media, posted an image of the popular mouthwash in packaging with drawings of same-gender couples holding hands or displaying rainbow flags.
As previously noted by LGBTQ Nation, Libs of TikTok has been influential in shaping public opinion on LGBTQ-related issues on social media, often ginning up outrage among social conservatives over expressions of LGBTQ visibility.
The Pride-themed wrapping on the bottle mentions the "Care With Pride" initiative, started by pharmaceutical industry giant Johnson & Johnson, the parent company of Listerine.
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