Target Reads Gaga’s Poker Face :: Chanteuse Insists Retail Giant Support GLBT Equality
Retail giant Target has landed exclusive rights to sell a special edition of Lady Gaga’s "Born This Way," but according to the fashion-forward, GLBT-friendly chanteuse, the deal came with strings attached: Namely, Target had to agree not to give any more money to anti-gay groups.
The chain found itself in the middle of a firestorm last year after news broke that Target had given $150,000 to a group called MNForward, which opposes GLBT family parity. The anti-gay organization then funneled that money into the campaign of anti-gay Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who went on to lose his bid for the office.
EDGE reported on Feb. 18 that Target had created a new committee to oversee political giving after an internal review process. Moreover, spokesperson Jessica Carlson hinted that the new policies stemmed directly from last year’s experience: "These changes are really reflective of that perspective that we gained over the 2010 election cycle," said Carlson.
A source informed the Washington Blade that Target had worked with "LGBT rights advocates" in designing its new policies.
Carlson noted that Target has enjoyed "a long history" of supporting the GLBT community, a claim also made by the company’s CEO, Gregg Steinhafel. The Human Rights Campaign has in the past awarded Target a 100% rating in its "Buying for Equality" shopping guide, and the company has honed a GLBT-friendly image.
But that image may have been part of the reason gay and GLBT-supportive shoppers reacted with such anger, blogger Barbara Farfan wrote at About.com on Aug. 24, 2010.
Bloggers defended Target on the grounds of its past track record of supporting GLBT causes. But other commentators found evidence of another, anti-gay track record: Midweek Politics radio host David Pakman reported that it did not seem to be the case--as Target spun the story--that the donation to MN Forward was a matter of funding politicians who are business-friendly (and who only incidentally happen to be anti-gay). Pakman pointed out on his program that Steinhafel has given money to other right-wing politicians, including Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, and has ties to anti-gay group Focus on the Family.
Moreover, Pakman noted, "On Proposition 8, Target did donate to both sides [so as] to appear to be unbiased, but they gave almost five times as much to oppose marriage equality than to support it."
Pakman continued, "Steinhafel sent his daughter to Wheaton College, a Christian institution where being gay will get you expelled. And also, the younger Steinhafel was a student at Focus on the Family Institute... I think if you believe Target [made its contribution to Emmer] because of economic growth, you are vastly mistaken."
Last August, Steinhafel issued an apology to the GLBT community in which he wrote, "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."
Lady Gaga indicated that something more than remorse would not be remiss in cementing her agreement with Target to sell the exclusive edition of her new single, a huge hit that has been praised by openly gay British pop star Sir Elton John as a "new gay anthem."
"Part of my deal with Target is that they have to start affiliating themselves with LGBT charity groups and begin to reform and make amends for the mistakes they’ve made in the past," said Gaga, according to a Feb. 21 article at Pink News.
Gaga went on to say that the business "relationship is hinged upon their reform in the company to support the gay community and to redeem the mistakes they’ve made supporting those [antigay] groups."
Pink News noted that in addition to MNForward, Target had donated funds to You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International, a "Christian punk rock ministry."
Target already offers family benefits to its gay and lesbian employees, Pink News reported. The retail store has also earmarked half a million dollars for community efforts, out of a budget of $156 million for such support to the general community
"[I]t is part of our hearts to care about this issue," said Target vice president Dustee Tucker Jenkins in an interview with Billboard magazine, reported Pink News. "It’s who we are.
"Around this, we’ve established this policy committee because we understand the importance of decisions like this one and we want to be more thoughtful," Jenkins continued. "We said that we’re giving almost half a million dollars already in 2011 because we want to demonstrate our commitment to the LGBT community."
Minnesota newspaper the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported on the agreement in a Feb. 22 article. The Star-Tribune article said that Jenkins indicted it was not possible for the company to guarantee that it would never contribute money to anti-gay groups in the future. However, "We just believe that this additional oversight [provided by the political giving committee] will demonstrate our intent to be more thoughtful," Jenkins told Billboard.
Jenkins stopped short of saying that Lady Gaga had single-handedly reformed Target, reported Twin Cities regional newspaper the Pioneer Press on Feb. 23. "Certainly her perspective was very helpful in conversations," Jenkins allowed. "But we’ve considered a variety of different perspectives along the way, and that’s gotten us to where we are today."
Gaga saw it differently. "That discussion was one of the most intense conversations I’ve ever had in a business meeting," she told the press.