7 GOP attorneys general threaten Target over Pride display

Fox commentator Jesse Watters blasting Target Pride merch
Photo: Screenshot

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) announced that he and six other state attorneys general have sent a letter advising Target that their Pride display could violate state laws. The letter accuses Target of violating laws that “protect children from harmful content meant to sexualize them and prohibit gender transitions of children.”

The at-times incomprehensible letter accuses Target of selling Pride gear for kids, promoting products from a brand that sells “Satanist-Inspired” merchandise, and helping GLSEN, an LGBTQ+ youth advocacy group that the attorneys general say has a “purpose of undermining parents’ constitutional and statutory rights by supporting ‘secret gender transitions for kids.'”

In May, it became something of a trend for conservative influencers to record themselves going into Target to express disgust at the store’s LGBTQ+ Pride displays, sometimes vandalizing them or harassing Target employees.

The attorneys’ general letter appears to draw inspiration from those videos, citing some of the products that conservatives were outraged by, including a tucking swimsuit sold in adult sizes, which some conservatives thought would turn kids transgender. The letter also complains about “LGBT-themed onesies, bibs, and overalls,” all products the conservative influencers expressed distaste for. The letter also mentions an adult T-shirt with a drag queen on it.

The letter says that Target carried products with “anti-Christian designs such as pentagrams, horned skulls, and other Satanic products,” citing a Reuters article. The Reuters article, though, doesn’t back the Republicans’ claims and actually says that Target was selling products from the brand Abprallen, which has associated in the past with British designer Erik Carnell, who has sold the above-mentioned Satanic merchandise through his own channels.

While the connection between Target and Carnell doesn’t seem strong enough to include in a letter sent for legal reasons, the idea that Target is selling Satanic products was part of an internet rumor earlier this year. AI-generated images of T-shirts with inverted pentagrams and goat heads and of a store display with a red, goat-headed mannequin were shared on social media last month and caused outrage in conservative Facebook groups, even though the images were fake and the products weren’t really being sold by Target.

The letter states that Target “has no duty to fill stores with objectionable goods, let alone endorse or feature them in attention-grabbing displays at the behest of radical activists.” It says that Target has a duty to its shareholders that it violated because some conservatives said they were boycotting Target on social media and therefore the Pride displays “negatively affected Target’s stock price.”

“It is likely more profitable to sell the type of Pride that enshrines the love of the United States,” the letter states. “Target’s Pride Campaign alienates whereas Pride in our country unites.”

It’s unclear what the legal argument is in the letter since businesses make unprofitable decisions all the time without facing prosecution. The letter says that “as the chief legal officers of our States, we are charged with enforcing state laws protecting children and safeguarding parental rights” including laws that “penalize the ‘sale or distribution… of obscene matter.'” But it doesn’t threaten to prosecute Target or its executives for selling “obscene” rainbow onesies.

Furthermore, it cites Indiana’s recently passed ban on gender-affirming health care for transgender youth, but Target wasn’t selling hormones or puberty blockers in its Pride displays. The gender-affirming healthcare ban doesn’t ban people under the age of 18 from identifying as LGBTQ+.

The letter is signed by Rokita and the attorneys general of Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and South Carolina. They are all Republicans.

“Transanity doesn’t sell,” Rokita said in announcing the letter. “Let’s all unite around pride in America instead of falling into the trap of dividing along lines of identity politics.”

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