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Associated Press surreptitiously drops claim about 'violent confrontations' over Target Pride merch

Wire service also didn't tell readers it removed "threats to workers" from headline. Some media outlets still running original story with no evidence cited.

Published: May 25, 2023 10:55am

Updated: May 25, 2023 12:29pm

The Associated Press has removed uncredited claims, without telling readers, that Target yanked or relocated LGBTQ merchandise featured prominently in Pride Month displays in response to "threats to workers" and "violent confrontations" between customers and employees.

Just the News noticed the wire service made the claims in its own voice in the headline and first paragraph of the report posted Tuesday night, rather than attributing those claims to Target, despite providing no evidence of threats or violence. The story was widely carried in other media.

Those claims had disappeared a day later without a correction or editor's note. The revised headline states Target "suffer[ed] backlash for LGBTQ+ support," while the revised opening paragraph cited "intense backlash from some customers who confronted workers and tipped over displays."

AP still provided no evidence for those claims.

Some media changed the story to the surreptitiously corrected version, though the original headline still appears widely in search results. Other outlets kept the original, including The Hill, AOL, CBS News, Yahoo Finance and Fox 9 in Target's home base of Minneapolis.

"As AP continued to report out the story, we were able to provide more specific examples of the incidents that took place and we updated the story accordingly," Vice President of Corporate Communications Lauren Easton wrote in an email when asked for AP's evidence of threats and violence against Target employees.

She pointed Just the News to a new sentence that reads: "Target said that customers knocked down Pride displays at some stores, angrily approached workers and posted threatening videos on social media from inside the stores." That sentence attributes the claim to Target, rather than AP making the claim.

Easton didn't respond to two requests to explain why it didn't put a correction, editor's note or update on the story, which still provides no evidence for AP's claim that customers "confronted workers and tipped over displays."

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