Target apologizes for funding Tom Emmer ad [UPDATED]

The bad press, viral videos and boycot calls appear to have grabbed Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel's attention. He has apologized to his employees for funding a TV ad that backed anti-gay Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, and has promised to create a review board to examine all future corporate political donations.

Target had tried to position its $150,000 donation to MN Forward as support for an organization that backed a candidate viewed as friendly to business and job growth. That explanation proved politically tone-deaf.

"I have heard from many of you, and our team members, over the past week regarding Target's contribution to MN Forward, and I appreciate your engagement and candor, both of which clearly demonstrate your loyalty and passion for our company," he wrote. "In situations like this, it is often difficult to find the right words, but I would like to respond with the same honesty you have shown me."

"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," Steinhafel said.

Republicans have tried hard to cast the anti-Target protests as a liberal plot to stifle free speech. Instead it became a cautionary tale about how a company's political position can affect its bottom line.

But the issue all along for the GLBT community is that Target appered to be speaking out of both sides of its mouth. On the one hand it held itself out as a gay-friendly workplace and supporter of gay causes, including Pride Fest, but on the other it was backing a guy known for his anti-gay marriage votes and rhetoric. (Steinhafel personally has long backed GOP candidates with loads of cash.)

Last week, the Human Rights Campaign took out a full page ad in the Star Tribune lambasting the Minnesota based retailer for rank hypocrisy.

Today, HRC President Joe Solmonese called Target's move a good first step.

"Target has been a champion for workplace equality for many years. That's why their recent donation to MN Forward was so at odds with their sterling reputation as a great employer for LGBT people. The fact that their political contribution was used to advance an anti-equality candidate was extremely hurtful to all fair-minded Americans," he said in a statement. "We appreciate Mr. Steinhafel's statement to company employees this afternoon but it doesn't go quite far enough."

But Solmonese said that Target's promise to evaluate political contributions in the future, "while a step in the right direction, is provided without details and does not mitigate their $150,000 supporting an outspoken opponent of equality for LGBT people. Target can still make it right by making equivalent contributions to equality-minded organizations and by making clear the procedure by which they will evaluate potential contributions in the future to include issues of LGBT-equality."

Randi Reitan, an Eden Prairie grandma and mother of a gay son, saw her YouTube video protesting the company go viral on YouTube -- she bought $226.32 of merchandise at Target, then returned every single item.

"A number of the items were for my grandchildren," Reitan said. "And they love their Uncle Jake so much. And Jake is gay. And they wouldn't want to have things coming from a store that contributes to a campaign that would have a governor candidate with the anti-gay views that Tom Emmer has."

Here's Reitan's video:

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