The threats came after the American retailer pulled a range of transgender-related products
Target stores in at least three US states have received bomb threats after management removed LGBTQ merchandise following a backlash from conservative shoppers. One message accused the retailer of being "cowards who turned their back on the LGBT community."
"Target is full of [redacted] cowards who turned their back on the LGBT community and decided to cater to the homophobic right wing redneck bigots who protested and vandalized their store," read an anonymous message sent to Cleveland 19 News on Friday.
"We won't stand idly by as the far right continues to hunt us down," the message continued, with the author claiming to have planted explosives in four Target stores in Ohio and one in Pennsylvania. Similar threats were made to four Target stores in Utah and at least one store in the state was evacuated, KUTV reported.
No explosives were found at any location, and police in Ohio determined that the threat was a hoax. Officers in Ohio and Utah are currently trying to establish the identity of the culprit.
The controversy began when Target stocked its shelves with LGBTQ merchandise ahead of Pride Month in June. Among the items introduced were "tuck-friendly" swimsuits - female swimsuits with an extra 'pouch' and crotch space to allow men to conceal their genitals - and sweatshirts and bags reading "cure transphobia, not trans people" and "too queer for here."
The "tuck-friendly" swimsuits were ridiculed online by conservatives, and the London-based designer of the shirts and bags was accused of being a Satanist. Although he has called this accusation "false," he previously explained on social media that he was comfortable with the label.
After shoppers in multiple states pushed over stands of merchandise and angrily confronted staff, Target announced last week that it would remove some of its LGBT collection and relocate the rest to the back of certain stores in Southern states. A source within the company told Fox News that the decision was made to avoid "a Bud Light situation," referring to the beer brand's controversial endorsement of transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, which triggered a boycott that cost parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev around $15 billion.
Target's attempt to placate outraged conservatives sparked fresh outrage from the LGBT community, however. California Governor Gavin Newsom accused the retailer of "selling out the LGBTQ+ community to extremists," claiming that "there is a systematic attack on the gay community happening across the country."