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Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel: We’re ‘Genuinely Sorry’ Over MN Forward Donation

And so they’ve caved. Target chief executive Gregg Steinhafel wrote employees in a statement today saying the company is “genuinely sorry” it donated $150,000 in cash and services to MN Forward, the PAC backing Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who’s anti-gay marriage (among other things).

In his letter, Steinhafel said Target would create a new review process moving forward when it comes to political donations. It doesn’t appear Target has asked for its money back.

The note, addressed to employees obviously upset over their employer’s move, could also be read as an apology to consumers: “While I firmly believe that a business climate conducive to growth is critical to our future, I realize our decision affected many of you in a way I did not anticipate, and for that I am genuinely sorry.” And: “We remain fully committed to fostering an environment that supports and respects the rights and beliefs of all individuals. The diversity of our team is an important aspect of our unique culture and our success as a company, and we did not mean to disappoint you, our team or our valued guests.”

The remarks come after Steinhafel defended Target’s donation by trumpeting its 100 percent HRC score — and after everybody from MoveOn.org to Twitter’s gays started assailing the company for putting tax breaks before civil rights. And then there were the consumers who told Target they were dropping the retailer for good.

Will Best Buy follow and Pentair suit? And does this apology matter to you? Maybe a promise to stop using its vast financial resources to influence elections would be a start.

Target Doesn’t Care If It Loses Its Gay Customers In Droves

By:          JD
On:           Aug 5, 2010
Tagged: , , , , , , , , , ,
    • Tollendyr

      Seems to me that instead of apologizing for being a bigot, he should instead offset his donation by putting his money where his mouth is and donating to some equal rights organizations.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 2:49 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mark

      @Tollendyr: Exactly! If he is genuinely sorry, then he needs to make a contribution of equal or greater value to a candidate or cause that fosters equal rights and treatment. Sorry Target, not good enough yet.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 2:55 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Allen D.

      Nope, not good enough. Donate MORE than 150k to some equal rights organizations and we’ll talk.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 2:56 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • BenR

      @Tollendyr: Target already sponsors civil rights interests in a number of ways. For example, Target is a regular “platinum” level sponsor of Twin Cities Pride. They were also already planning on helping to sponsor the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change Conference when it comes to Minneapolis early next year. Additionally, Target has previously scored a 100 on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index.

      In fact, Target’s past commitment to LGBT rights, both in the community and among its employees, is one of the reasons why its donation to an anti-gay politician has garnered so much media attention.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 3:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Milkman

      @Tollendyr: Right on. This apology skirted the edge of a “sorry you were offended” non-apology… but I’m willing to accept it and move forward if he offsets Target’s donations. Of course, Steinhafel may donate his personal money any way he sees fit… but the big corporate donations carry significant risk of backlash. Perhaps the SCOTUS decision on this topic wasn’t the big go-ahead for a corporate political feeding frenzy after all… thanks in no small part to the vigilance of ordinary American citizens.

      My recommendation to Target?

      Apologize publicly to your customers.

      Make a very public donation to OutFront Minnesota, in an equal amount to the money and services contributed to MN Forward.

      Don’t ever again make a political donation without vetting the candidates first. (One would think this would be a no-brainer, but…)

      Aug 5, 2010 at 3:05 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • BenR

      I don’t mean to imply that their previous good work excuses having given money to a pro-business PAC which, in turn, handed it over to an anti-gay candidate. I think in some ways that the controversy is overblown, both because Target did not actively seek to give money to an anti-gay candidate, and because it seems unfair to expect a corporation not to give its money to a PAC which advocates for businesses.

      As far as I’m concerned, the only real solution to this problem is for Target (and other corporations) to stop donating to PACs, candidates, and campaigns at all. There are plenty of other, worthier causes where they can put their money.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 3:05 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Milkman

      @BenR: Target only donates to TCPride and other similar recipients because it’s a good business move. The controversy here was not that a corporation donated to a Republican. (That’s hardly a shocking revelation.) The problem was that they donated so MUCH money to THIS Republican… the only candidate endorsed and supported by MN Forward… Mr. Emmer. Emmer’s public support of groups advocating the death penalty for homosexuality, as well as his other many repulsive political statements, would certainly give any reasonable individual pause. It was a stupid ideological move on Steinhafel’s part, and it damaged Target’s excellent reputation. If I were on the board, I’d be thinking about replacing Steinhafel with someone whose decision making capacity is less suspect.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 3:10 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • BenR

      @The Milkman:
      Target only donates to TCPride and other similar recipients because it’s a good business move.

      And… do you expect a corporation to use its money for things which are not good business moves?

      Target is a for-profit corporation, not a charity. Nevertheless, it is a for-profit corporation that has gone out of its way to demonstrate its welcome to its LGBT customers, in ways that many businesses haven’t or wouldn’t. That Target has done positive things in regards to LGBT interests and rights should not be dismissed simply because those decisions were also business decisions.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 3:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Rick H

      I have to admit that I’m torn… I don’t want big business in politics at all! Doesn’t do us any good if we’re backing them because they are supporting “our” candidate. I still think an example needs to be made because I don’t want any corporation buying an election.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 3:26 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • PBMonkeyKing

      @BenR: Agreed, but the assumption that businesses are somehow empty amoral agents is a relatively recent notion rooted in pretty contemporary, radical free market fantasies about our economy. This is particularly true now that the SCOTUS has expanded the rights of corporations to an unprecedented degree.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 3:27 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Phil

      Get over yourselves guys. Businesses can, and should, support politicians willing to support candidates that will in turn support them. If your gay friendly candidate was willing to tax corporations more in MN, then Target may choose to leave the state, resulting in lower taxes overall for the state and affects everybody poorly. (Except maybe RH, where taxes are lower.)

      Honestly, y’all are just being bitchy that a business is choosing to make sound business decisions and this affects you -marginally- negatively. To get back to my first point, get over yourselves. They don’t exist to serve your cause, they exist to serve their pockets.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 3:30 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • BenR

      @PBMonkeyKing: I don’t disagree with you. As I said before, I think corporations ought to stop donating to political campaigns and candidates entirely. But I also think it’s unreasonable to criticize a corporation for doing something good simply because that good thing also helps improve their image.

      As a movement, how can we use the argument that corporations ought to support LGBT rights and equality because it’s both the right thing to do as well as a good business move, and then turn around and dismiss the ways they do further our interests by labeling them as calculated, corporate money-grubbing?

      Aug 5, 2010 at 3:33 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MrEguy

      ?? Who’s sorry now? ??

      It’s simple: You want my gay dollars? Don’t support politicians or organizations that infringe upon my rights. Or I’ll take my business ELSEWHERE.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 3:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • peteNsfo

      I’m not an apologist for Target, but I DO think that all of business is caught off-guard by the new transparency around donations. Donations to support overall business still make sense, but they must be reviewed in a larger context.

      In the long run, Target’s experience will inform other companies as they move forward… They’ve apologized, now give them a little room to move forward.

      As that numb-skull in Alaska says, “trust, but verify.”

      Aug 5, 2010 at 3:42 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JohnnyTrue

      I probably will go back and shop there eventually, but it will take some time before I trust that company again with my purchasing dollars.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 3:51 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam

      @Phil: said..

      “Get over yourselves guys. Businesses can, and should, support politicians willing to support candidates that will in turn support them.”

      What a bunch of B.S. Phil, Ok, so if a corporation donated to a candidate who thought that it should be legal for husbands to beat their wives, but he also believed in lower taxes for corporations, would you be telling women to “Get Over It” if Victoria Secret donated to this guy?

      I just LOVE how we are supposedly the assholes for getting upset that money Target donated went to a candidate who is tied to a group that says killing gays is moral. Oh yeah, how “Bitchy” of us to be upset by that.

      If that is how Target feels, then Target can do fine without our dollars.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 3:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tim Curry

      The bottom line is that business can choose to donate to whomever they want and the consumer can choose to continue to do business there or not. This is the free market at work. I don’t see the reality of asking Target (or Best Buy) to take their money back, since the candidate can choose whether or not to give the money back. Target can however, donate an equal amount to the other candidate as a goodwill gesture.

      PS: Target will not leave the state of MN because of taxes. That was a stupid thing to write, Phil. There is already a country that taxes minimally, has few regulations, small ruling class, and provides education only in the more affluent areas, puts little into infrastructure, and assistance to the poor is called begging in the streets. It is called Mexico. Utopia already exists. Move there and stop making the US more like them.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 4:07 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • crystal

      can u suggest a silent protest. today i went to trget and put everything i was gonna buy in a basket and left them a note for the manager to read . “this is what i was gonna purchase, but as long as you support people who want to place me and my family in a catagory of less than them, i cannot i good conscience give you money.”

      sorry _____________________

      just a thought its what i did

      Aug 5, 2010 at 4:17 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Gorbeh

      Well I hope that if Target is caving to a little boycott over Tom Emmer that there is no chance he’ll be elected. Pawlenty was bad enough…

      Aug 5, 2010 at 4:43 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • G B

      Target, a self-proclaimed “socially responsible company,” should have had the foresight about how this would look for its public relations and the backlash that would ensue. A true “socially responsible” company should consider a candidate for more than just business stances- maybe a “socially responsible” candidate as well?

      Ms. Jennifer Hanson, the representative from Target, responded with the justification for the donation: “MN Forward’s objective is to elect candidates from both parties who will make job creation and economic growth a top priority.” DFL candidate Matt Entenza’s top priorities IS exactly that: job creation and economic growth. AND he’s also a huge advocate of equal rights. Instead they pick the candidate who seems very bigoted, wants to tax corporations less, and lower minimum wage to servers…

      Emmer seems to be a man who, because he has seven offspring and a traditional, heterosexual family, considers himself to be a model for man(kind). Does being such also include the belief that all servers are overpaid and we should have DUI’s on our record?


      As for Target… I do believe there’s a K-Mart alive and kicking somewhere close…

      Aug 5, 2010 at 6:56 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Michael

      Number of Focus on the Family boycotts: Infinite.
      Number of corporations who cared: 0.

      Number of LGBT boycotts: 1.
      Number of companies who quaked: 1.

      IMHO, this should teach us a lesson. If we’re going to fight the Right Wing Reich we obviously know corporations tremble when we boycott. Perhaps this is the key to winning this social war.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 7:13 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hephaestion

      The apology will become sincere when they donate $150,000 to the Human Rights Campaign or the pro-gay candidate for governor of Minnesota. ‘Til then, I won’t spend a dime there.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 8:03 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam

      @hephaestion: said…

      “The apology will become sincere when they donate $150,000 to the Human Rights Campaign or the pro-gay candidate for governor of Minnesota. ‘Til then, I won’t spend a dime there.”

      Oh Please, The HRC will just use that money to buy all their employees a new tux for their next gala. Give that money to a worth while cause. That politicians thinks gays should be killed, then use that money to send gay kids to college, or to fund an organization that helps gay kids kicked out of their homes by bigoted parents like this guy. Sending it to HRC is akin to flushing it down the toilet.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 8:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • damon459

      I surprised to see people think the boycott worked hell it’s only been what 6-7 days ? Come on I’ve said this before target is nothing like walmart yes target fucked up and they owned up to it. Most of these national LGBT orgs are a total waste of money that just want us to keep donating so they can keep rakin in the cash. As to shopping at Kmart are you serious? I’d rather just not buy anything then shop in that over priced junkyard I hoped when sears bought they it would improve but it’s the same junk I use to see there as a kid. I’ll also add as I have said many times before if your going to boycott every company in the country that isn’t 100% gay friendly 100% of the time you’d be living in a cave somewhere wearing a fig leaf and growing your own food.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 9:05 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MrEguy

      @ Damon459: While the boycott hasn’t likely yet caused a substantial financial loss, the nationwide bad publicity generated this week against Target is exponentially damaging. That alone is seriously frightening to a retailer trying to compete with Walmart. These companies spend millions a year on advertising to make themselves look good to the public. All of that positive imaging can be flushed down the toilet by a bad situation like this. These guys think with their corporate wallets. The CEO’s perfunctory apology is an attempt at damage control.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 10:03 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • tjr101

      Oh purlezze, Target was NEVER a friend of the gays.

      While donating to pride parades is all nice and lovey dovey, its donations to political campaigns that count.


      Aug 5, 2010 at 10:26 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mike

      The apology is nice, now let’s see some action on it. Break that fat wallet open again and double your donation to pro-LGBT organizations: $150K to a pro-LGBT political organization, and $150K to a non-profit LGBT organization that’s going to counsel all the LGBT kids that will need it after having had to deal with the pandering that led your dumb ass into this situation. You’ll still wind up saving money.

      Aug 5, 2010 at 11:40 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • axos

      I think that enterprises operating in Germany during the Nazi era and WWII under the slogan “strictly business not politics”, hence contributing to Hitler and using slave labor, showed us there is no such thing as “only business”. This is the point where the interest of society and the interest of capitalism collide. If you are at all civilized, you have to see and consider the bigger picture.

      Aug 6, 2010 at 3:39 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • damon459

      All I’m trying to get across is why are we singling out Target? why are we going after all the other companies who do the same thing? What about Walmart, Kmart, Sears, Shopko the list goes on and on. I would like to know of one large company who hasn’t done this does one exist? What about the boycott against Exxon has anyone stopped buying there anti-gay oil products? I’m all for us demanding our rights but seriously how effective would a boycott be when the economy is in the crapper, and what about those LGBT employees who would be laid off do to the drop in sales at these stores? Do we care about them?

      Aug 6, 2010 at 4:32 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • axos

      Hm, wonder why I got a thumbs-down on my post. Someone who seriously thinks money should always trump all?

      Aug 6, 2010 at 4:45 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Pat Duffy

      @damon459: It’s about Hypocracy(not that a lot of Queerty readers care much about it…). Personally, I’ve lived and SPENT enough time and resources on these types already. A real Apology has SUBSTANCE. Unless they retract the gift, Target will never get another dime from me or my Husband….

      Aug 6, 2010 at 6:38 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Brian

      @axos: I think perhaps the comparison of Target’s campaign contribution with employing slave labor struck some as a bit over the top?

      Aug 6, 2010 at 6:41 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Brian

      @damon459: I agree with what your main point, and I just don’t think there’s been a lot of clear thinking on the Target issue. Every big company makes political contributions across the political spectrum. And each politician receiving contributions is a bundle of policy preferences all wrapped in one, usually unappealing, package. Gay rights is one of a thousand issues to be considered, and for the vast majority of companies, it ranks pretty low. A retailer would be much more concerned with taxes, zoning restrictions, labor and wage regulations etc. So with all the money gushing out of companies in all directions, and all the recipients of said cash taking thousands of different positions on all sorts of things, 99 percent of which have nothing to do with gay rights, I just don’t see the point of combing through all these donations and boycotting the offending company. But if you’re going to do it, do a thorough job of it, and I’m sure you’ll find you’d have to boycott everyone, which is your point.

      I do, however, draw a distinction between donations to politicians and other actions companies take specifically targeting gay rights. Certainly companies making donations to Prop 8 or other garbage like that should be avoided. As for Exxon, I haven’t bought a gallon from them since they terminated Mobil’s same sex partner benefits.

      Aug 6, 2010 at 6:58 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • gaystereotype

      “And so they caved”? “AND SO THEY CAVED”? They didn’t ‘cave’ or give a single inch! This is a man who with his wife gave the maximum amount to Michele Bachmann’s campaign. There was no donation to pro-gay groups, nor a request to return the donation to MN Backward. These people are not to be trusted.

      Aug 6, 2010 at 8:08 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mark

      In Australia, we have a one line response I feel is quite adequate…. bugger off ya git

      Aug 6, 2010 at 8:52 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam

      @damon459: said..
      “”I surprised to see people think the boycott worked hell it’s only been what 6-7 days ? Come on I’ve said this before target is nothing like walmart yes target fucked up and they owned up to it. Most of these national LGBT orgs are a total waste of money that just want us to keep donating so they can keep rakin in the cash. As to shopping at Kmart are you serious? I’d rather just not buy anything then shop in that over priced junkyard I hoped when sears bought they it would improve but it’s the same junk I use to see there as a kid. I’ll also add as I have said many times before if your going to boycott every company in the country that isn’t 100% gay friendly 100% of the time you’d be living in a cave somewhere wearing a fig leaf and growing your own food.

      Damon, you claim the boycott had no effect, but this is the second time Target has now come out and had to talk about this, and they are making apology noises. If the boycott talk had no teeth then they would have just ignored the issue.

      Lastly, not being 100% gay friendly, and giving money that goes to a politician supporting the killing of gays are two completely different things.

      Aug 6, 2010 at 9:43 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mountainword

      Simple answer: If you want me to accept your apology, then take back the $150,000 from that asshole. I don’t care how you do it, just do it.

      Aug 6, 2010 at 9:44 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • axos

      @Brian: I was simply stating that what’s good for a company is not always good for society, and that a company cannot strictly go only for what’s best for business. Then I went for one of the most glaring examples.

      Not that you don’t have more recent glaring examples at hand – like oil and the Iraq war.

      Aug 6, 2010 at 10:14 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Sister Unity

      Nope. Uh uh. Huffington Post has an article showing how Target has donated to anti-gay and arch conservative politicians and causes for YEARS, including to Yes on Prop 8. They will have to apologize for all of that and institute a no donation to anti gay causes policy.

      Just heard their apology on NPR – they are sorry it had “unintended consequences”. Really? Unintended? What, you didn’t know Emmer was anti-gay? I do not think so. Also the report said they are “reviewing” their donations policy. Paper shuffling, and insincere to my ears.

      Aug 6, 2010 at 11:07 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • SFNative

      Target donated tangible, hard cash that directly threatens the civil rights of LGBT people, and no verbal or written apology can take this cash back away from Tom Emmer. Target must make an equal donation to a candidate that directly opposes Tom Emmer or make a donation four times as large to an LGBT rights organization, or I will continue to boycott this store.

      Equality is an entire cookie; it knows no crumbs. Remember that, Target and Best Buy.

      Aug 6, 2010 at 12:24 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MrEguy

      @axos: Ever heard of Godwin’s law? That’s why.

      Aug 6, 2010 at 5:32 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Robb

      @crystal: Personally, I think this is a brilliant idea.

      Aug 7, 2010 at 8:34 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Hank Eyrich

      Gregg Steinhnfel

      If you think that by stating you don’t support our next governer Tom Emmerson was a mistake you should be fired. I promise you, Mr Steinhnfel, that I will never spend another dime in Target as long as you are CEO. You and your corporation are a joke!

      Hank Eyrich
      507 288-2506

      Aug 7, 2010 at 7:22 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stenar

      Target needs to be punished a while longer.

      Aug 8, 2010 at 1:23 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • TexasDiva

      @The Milkman: You are totally distorting the facts. Tom Emmer did NOT say he supported killing gays. He did give a donation to a Christian evangelical rock group called “You Can Run But You Cannot Hide . . . ” (YCRBYCH)but that was as far as his involvement went. The YCRBYCH group does not advocate killing gays either. They made a comment that was taken and quoted out of the context in which it was originally made. The original context was that the left-leaning politicos are just slobbering all over themselves to placate Muslims while vilifying Christians. Therefore if these Muslims are so “moral” for their religious beliefs, then it would follow that since one of their beliefs is that gays should be killed, therefore, they are more “moral” than Christians. Therefore, the YCRBYCH group was NOT advocating “killing gays” and was pointing out to the world just how IMMORAL and politically incorrect the Muslims are. Geeze, gays . . . please do your homework before jumping on a company like Target who is our only real competition against WalMart.

      Aug 13, 2010 at 11:04 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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