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Target CEO defends Pride display adjustments while vowing LGBTQ support: 'This has been a very hard day'

Target boss Brian Cornell thanked his staff in a letter defending the company's handling of the store's Pride collection while expressing solidarity with the LGBTQ community.

Target CEO Brian Cornell sent a letter to employees defending the company's decision to make adjustments to its Pride collection in its stores while expressing support for the LGBTQ community.

"This has been a very hard day for Target, and it follows many difficult days of deliberation and decision-making," Cornell wrote to staff on Wednesday, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Insider. 

Cornell thanked store employees for "steadfastly representing our values" while facing "uncomfortable situations" in recent days, saying it "went well beyond discomfort, and it has been gut-wrenching to see what you've confronted in our aisles." He then thanked employees at Target's service centers for their "patience and professionalism through high volumes of angry, abusive and threatening calls." 

"To the teams who have been working so hard on our plans for Pride - and now are showing incredible agility as we adjust - thank you," Cornell wrote. "Your efforts will ensure we can still show up and celebrate Pride in meaningful ways."


He continued, "To the LGBTQIA+ community, one of the hardest parts in all of this was trying to contemplate how the adjustments we're making to alleviate these threats to our team's physical and psychological safety would impact you and your wellbeing and psychological safety. We stand with you now and will continue to do so - not just during Pride Month, but each and every day. Those were the two guiding principles when it came time for us to act: do all we can to keep our team safe, and do all we can to honor our commitment and connection to the LGBTQIA+ community."

The Target chief went on to defend the company's handling of the situation, writing "From a host of difficult alternatives, we have sincerely sought the best path forward, finding ways to recognize Pride Month, while making adjustments to prioritize safety. As always, we're stronger together, and I want you to know that I'm committed to doing all I can, and all we can as a company, to support a culture across the country of care, empathy, equity and simple civility, in hopes that we'll not have to face these kinds of agonizing decisions in the future."


The big box retail chain has been facing tense public uproar over its Pride merchandise collection that was prominently displayed stores. 

Among its products available in stores include one-piece swimsuits featuring "tuck-friendly construction" and "extra crotch coverage" as well as mugs that say "gender fluid."

A Target insider told Fox News Digital that many locations, mostly in rural areas of the South, have relocated Pride sections to avoid the kind of backlash Bud Light has received in recent weeks after using a transgender influencer in a promotional campaign. 

There were "emergency" calls last Friday and that some managers and district senior directors were told to tamp down the Pride sections immediately, according to the insider.

"We were given 36 hours, told to take all of our Pride stuff, the entire section, and move it into a section that’s a third the size. From the front of the store to the back of the store, you can’t have anything on mannequins and no large signage," the Target insider said.


"We call our customers ‘guests,’ there is outrage on their part. This year, it is just exponentially more than any other year," the Target insider continued. "I think given the current situation with Bud Light, the company is terrified of a Bud Light situation."

The insider, who has worked at the retailer for almost two decades, said Target rarely makes such hasty decisions. They said Friday’s call began with roughly 10 minutes on "how to deal with team member safety" because of the amount of backlash the Pride merchandise has generated, noting that Target Asset Protect & Corporate Security teams were present on the call.

Target later confirmed "adjustments" to the Pride merchandising plans are underway.

"For more than a decade, Target has offered an assortment of products aimed at celebrating Pride Month. Since introducing this year’s collection, we've experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and wellbeing while at work. 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. Our focus now is on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year," a Target spokesperson told Fox News Digital.


Before the recent uproar, Cornell hailed "woke" corporate campaigns, saying in a podcast interview earlier this month they are "good business decisions," adding "it's "the right thing for society, and it’s the great thing for our brand."

"The things we’ve done from a DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] standpoint, it’s adding value," Cornell said. "It’s helping us drive sales, it’s building greater engagement with both our teams and our guests, and those are just the right things for our business today."

Target's market shares slipped another 1.6% on Thursday and have dropped more than 12.6% since the furor erupted a week ago Wednesday, as tracked by Dow Jones Market Data Group. That amounts to $9.3 billon in market value. 

Target did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital's request for comment.

Fox News' Brian Flood and Yael Halon contributed to this report. 

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