In its ceaseless culture war campaign against all things trans and “woke,” the right-wing industrial grievance complex recently went after retail giant Target for supposedly selling “tuck-friendly” swimwear for kids, going so far as to call the company’s CEO a “pervert groomer.”
Despite their claims that the retailer is “destroying our kids” by selling bathing suits to toddlers with “extra crotch coverage,” the reality is that Target only offers the “tuck-friendly” items in adult sizes as part of its Pride month collection.
Despite this, the retailer announced on Tuesday that it will be making some significant changes since the backlash; telling The Daily Beast that it is removing some items from its stores and making other changes to its LGBTQ-friendly merchandise nationwide ahead of Pride month. Some tweets from conservatives show Pride displays that have already allegedly been removed from stores.
“For more than a decade, Target has offered an assortment of products aimed at celebrating Pride Month,” a spokesperson for Target told The Daily Beast.
“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.”
Target said that despite the removal of Pride-positive merchandise, “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.”
Earlier this month, with conservatives having already spent weeks angrily boycotting Bud Light for sending a commemorative can to trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney, they found another brand to take transphobic aim at when Target installed Pride sections in their stores. Besides offering up LGBTQ-inspired merchandise, the section also features clothing that includes trans-friendly swimwear options.
Far-right social media account Gays Against Groomers, which the Anti-Defamation League has named a group that “peddles dangerous and misleading narratives about the LGBTQ+ community,” seemingly kicked off the outrage cycle with a misleading post on May 10.
“This is what you will find in the kid’s section of @Target. We urge you to take your business elsewhere. They are indoctrinating and grooming them with LGBTQ ideology. It is highly inappropriate and disturbing,” Gays Against Groomers wrote, sharing a video of a Target store’s Pride section.
“We hope there are enough parents out there that understand how wrong this is and show them that this garbage will not sell,” the organization continued in a tweet that’s racked up 1.3 million views. “The only thing these people understand is money. Target deserves the Bud Light treatment. We will work to put the pressure on them.”
Several high-follower accounts soon began sharing videos and photos from shoppers supposedly revealing that Target stores were selling bathing suits in the kids’ section with tags that read “Tuck-Friendly Construction” and “Extra Crotch Coverage.”
“Tuck friendly??? Wtf target,” far-right Twitter account Clown World posted on May 16 alongside one video clip, which suggested the swimsuit in question was for children. The tweet was deleted on Tuesday afternoon after it had garnered nearly 6,000 likes and a million views.
Sharing the same clip as Clown World later that day, Daily Wire podcaster Matt Walsh—who has become one of the leading voices of the anti-trans right—claimed outright that Target was selling these items to children while calling for a boycott of the company.
“What @Target is doing is far worse than anything Bud Light did. They are selling chest binders & ‘tuck-friendly’ bathing suits for children,” he declared. “Target is calling our bluff. But just like any other company, they need our business. We did it with Bud Light. Now it's Target's turn.”
Other conservative pundits and personalities soon followed suit with their own deceptive videos and images, prompting the Murdoch-owned New York Post to report that “Target’s ‘tuck-friendly’ swimwear for kids sparks outcry.”
Fox News’ digital site soon followed up by noting that consumers were “creeped out” by the swimwear, though the article did not specifically claim the bathing suits were for children. The network later reported that Target held an “emergency” meeting to avoid another “Bud Light situation.”
While Fox News largely steered clear of the issue on air, Newsmax had no problem echoing the falsehood about the “tucking bathing suits for little girls” on their airwaves. On at least four separate occasions between Friday and Monday, the network’s hosts and guests insisted Target was peddling the swimwear to young children.
“Target now with what are called tucking bathing suits for little boys who want to look like little girls in swimsuits,” Newsmax anchor Rob Schmitt said on Friday night, adding: “I maintain we will look back on this moment in this country and we will just shake our heads at the idiocy that we let take control. It is astonishing.”
And on Monday night, alongside an on-air graphic blaring “Target’s ‘Tuck-Friendly’ Swimwear For Kids Sparks Outcry,” Newsmax host Eric Bolling insisted that the store was offering “underwear for kids to tuck or not to tuck.”
Amid the ongoing moral panic on the right, the Associated Press published a fact-check on Tuesday debunking the claims about Target’s Pride-themed merchandise.
“However, the swimsuits labeled ‘tuck-friendly’ are only in adult sizes, and are not available in kids’ sizes, Kayla Castaneda, a spokesperson for Target, told The Associated Press,” the AP reported. “Both the colorful one-piece and black swim bottoms seen in the photos and videos online are clearly labeled on Target’s website as adult swimsuits. Both pages list the products as coming in ‘general adult sizing’ and offer adult XS as the smallest size for sale.”
The article also noted that children’s swimsuits in the store’s Pride collection “are not the same design or construction and do not have the same label.” A reporter for the AP also visited a Target store in Brooklyn and found that Pride apparel for adults, children and pets is located in the same area typically used for seasonal or limited-edition merchandise.
Despite the AP’s fact-check, a number of prominent right-wing pundits and media outlets continued to press forward with their false claims against Target while using increasingly apocalyptic rhetoric to call for Target CEO Brian Cornell’s prosecution. (Cornell recently said “focus on diversity and inclusion and equity has fueled much of our growth,” prompting additional outrage.)
“Target’s transgender ‘tuck-friendly’ clothing for children was inspired by a drag queen,” ex-One America News anchor Liz Wheeler tweeted on Tuesday. “These people are deliberately destroying our kids. I will never spend another penny at Target. Boycott them into obscurity.”
Charlie Kirk, founder of MAGA youth group Turning Point USA, took it much further on his podcast on Tuesday afternoon.
This is where the conservative movement is now.
Charlie Kirk calls on Republican attorneys general to launch a "criminal investigation" into Target CEO Brian Cornell, calling him a "pervert groomer" and "very sick person" who "really has like a fetish for going after children." pic.twitter.com/A3u1PHe2FI
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) May 23, 2023
“Republican attorneys general, do you have a heartbeat out there? How about a criminal investigation into Brian Cornell? Just do it! They would do it to us,” he exclaimed.
Baselessly calling Cornell a “pervert groomer,” Kirk added that the Target chief was a “very sick person” who “really has a fetish for going after children” while repeatedly accusing the executive of “grooming” children.