Fox News talks to Robert Rowling about Gold’s Gym controversy, quotes his neighbor Instant Tea

This is too funny. Highland Park billionaire Robert Rowling, CEO of TRT Holdings, the ownership group for both Gold’s Gym and Omni Hotels, has broken his silence about the controversy over his $2 million in contributions to American Crossroads. And guess who Rowling decided to talk to about it? That’s right, Fox News. But that’s not the funny part. In its story about the Gold’s Gym flap, which is oh-so-cleverly titled “This isn’t working out,” Fox News also quotes this blog, which it says “shares a neighborhood with Rowling.” Really? And which neighborhood would that be? Do they really think Instant Tea can afford to live in Highland Park? Well maybe we could if people like Fox News would link to our freakin’ site when they quote us!!! Bastards. Anyhow, here’s what Bobby-boy had to say for himself and what Fox News had to say about us:

“The facts are so distorted,” Rowling told Fox News, explaining that his donation to American Crossroads had nothing to do with social policies that could spark crossfire. “I’ve never heard one discussion of a social issue. This is all about fiscal sanity.” American Crossroads “supports conservative candidates, and even though those candidates may disagree with them on social issues, the resounding issue is fiscal responsibility.”

Rowling explained that his donation was made knowing that unlike its sister organization, Crossroads GPS, American Crossroads discloses its donors. “I gave to American Crossroads, where I knew my name would be published,” he said.

LGBT online newspaper the Dallas Voice, which shares a neighborhood with Rowling, on Monday likened the criticism from the gay community to similar backlash against Target Corp. over its financial support of an organization that backed Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who has made clear his stance that marriage between a man and a woman is the only form that should be legally recognized.

“…Apparently the only thing we hold more sacred than shopping at Target is working out,” the newspaper deadpanned in a Monday posting.

Target Corp., which is known for its progressive employment policies and sponsorship of Minnesota gay groups, in August faced pressure from its shareholders to retool its donation process to avoid similar problems in the future.

“Gold’s Gym is apolitical. We welcome all members without regard to race, gender, or sexual orientation,” Rowling told Fox News. “We always have, and we always will.”

—  John Wright

To shop or not to shop at Target?

That is the question for LGBTs angry over donations by Target, Best Buy to anti-gay politician

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Target Retail Store
DECISIONS, DECISIONS | The Target on Central at Haskell is convenient for shoppers in Oak Lawn. But does the company’s donation to an anti-gay politician outweigh the store’s convenience? (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Although Target and Best Buy have a 100 percent rating in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, they were removed last week from HRC’s Buying for Equality guide.

Fred Sainz, HRC vice president of communications and marketing, called the move “unprecedented.”
At issue are donations the companies made to MN Forward, a political action committee supporting anti-gay Minnesota Republican candidate for governor Tom Emmer.

Target donated $150,000 and Best Buy contributed $100,000 to the PAC.

Emmer supports a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. He is affiliated with the Christian rock band You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, which has advocated violence against LGBT people.

Gays “play the victim when they are, in fact, the predator. On average, they molest 117 people before they’re found out,” the band’s front man, Bradlee Dean, has said.

“These are nice people,” Emmer said of Dean, who has also said that Muslims are upholding the laws of God by calling for the execution of gays.

Sainz said the corporate index measures a company’s workplace practices as they relate to their employees. Most of the score is based on certain fixed criteria such as offering domestic partner insurance and having nondiscrimination policies in place that cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

Sainz said that up to 15 points can be added for outreach and marketing to the LGBT community. The same number of points may be deducted for contributing to organizations that fight equality or to discriminatory ballot measures.

“Target and Best Buy got 100 percent and deserved the score at the time,” he said. “It’s just a snapshot in time.”

Buying for Equality is made up of companies listed in the CEI that consumers would use. While Lockheed Martin received a 100 percent rating, few people reading the buyers’ guide shop for aircraft engines, Sainz said.

The guide “sends the message to support these companies,” Sainz said.

Target bookends Oak Lawn with one store at Central Expressway and Haskell Avenue and another on Marsh Lane at Northwest Highway, just past Love Field.

Best Buy has an active LGBT employees group in the Dallas area. A local representative of the group said any statement on the issue should come from corporate headquarters, but the corporate spokesperson did not return calls.

Target has a gay employee group but none active locally. North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tony Vedda said that those groups are more common at retail companies’ corporate headquarters and distribution centers than in the stores themselves.

Sainz said that consumer anger has been directed more at Target than Best Buy.

“We go to Target once a week,” he said. “We feel personally betrayed.”

He said that Best Buy is where he goes for electronics but shops there much less frequently.

No formal boycott of either store has been organized, but many in the LGBT community as well as allies and others concerned with social justice issues have stayed out of both Target and Best Buy since the donations were made public.

Employees at Target at Cityplace refused to say whether or not their business has been affected and told this reporter to leave the store.

Neither company reports a financial impact, but three investment funds controlling $57.5 million in stock have filed shareholder complaints.

The New York Times ran an editorial highlighting the company’s public relations nightmare.

Target’s CEO apologized for supporting an anti-LGBT candidate and said the company’s support for the community is unwavering. The company is a sponsor of the upcoming Out & Equal convention in Los Angeles and supports a number of Pride events.

David Ethridge is a local activist who believes in standing on principle when deciding where to shop: “LGBT Americans represent almost$800 billion in annual buying power and are a serious consumer force to be recognized and valued,” he said. “We have to vote with our dollars, because that’s the only language that a corporation speaks.”

Liz Cappon said she disagrees with the donations both companies made but is not boycotting.

“I can guarantee that there are tons of other stores that have done or are currently doing the same thing with candidates and PACs but maybe they just aren’t receiving the same attention right now,” she said.

She said some friends of hers have switched to Wal-Mart. That company’s CEI score is 40 percent.
“I would prefer to shop somewhere that treats their gay employees well,” she said.

“Target wants to sell me socks, and I want to buy socks from Target, but first I have to feel good about where my sock money is going,” Ethridge said.

Ethridge said it’s too early to know what long-term impact the reaction to Target’s donation will have.

Sainz held talks with Target that produced no immediate results. He said his talks with Best Buy continue.

“I think there’s a silver lining,” he said. “We, as a community, sent a message to corporations to factor in our issues.”

He said that there’s no way to measure the effect the boycott of Target has had, but thinks companies that care about public reaction will be more careful about their political donations in the future.

…………………………………………

COMPARISON SHOPPING

Thinking of boycotting? How easy would it be to boycott Target or Best Buy and stick to companies with high Equality Index ratings? We took a few products available at these stores and compared. Prices are current this week from the stores’ websites.

• LEVI STRAUSS

Levi’s not only has a 100 percent rating itself, the San Francisco-based company practically invented corporate equality. They were one of the first corporations to extend benefits equally to their LGBT employees and one of the first to market to the community.

Target: $24.99-$27.99

J.C. Penney: $32.99-$49.99

Levi Outlet Store: $19.90-$128 (Not the same styles but the outlet store offered the widest selection.)

Closest Penney store to Oak Lawn: Valley View Mall. Penney is locally based and has a 95 percent rating

Closest Levi Outlet Store: Grapevine Mills. Company-owned with 100 percent rating.

Jeans alternatives: Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic. 100 percent rating. Closest stores to Oak Lawn: Banana Republic in West Village. Gap in NorthPark. Old Navy in Galleria. Only carry their own store brands.

• “GLEE” DVD

The first season of “Glee” (available Sept. 14)

“Glee” aired on Fox, owned by News Corp: unrated.

Target: $38.99

Best Buy: $37.99

Borders: $40.59 (Borders is at West Village and has a 100 percent rating)

Alternative: rent it at gay-owned TapeLenders

• CREST TOOTHPASTE, 4.2 oz. size

Crest is manufactured by Procter & Gamble, which has a 100 percent rating.

Target: $2.49

Kroger: $2.50 (Kroger has a 75 percent rating  and has a store on Cedar Springs.)

• FRISKIES, 5.5 oz. can

Manufactured by Purina, which has a 75 percent rating.

Target: 40 cents/can

Walgreens: 50 cents/can (Walgreens has stores in Oak Lawn, Oak Cliff and throughout the city and has a 100 percent rating.)

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Sessions: One-third of Tea Party is Democrats

Anti-gay Republican Dallas Congressman Pete Sessions, right, has joined the Tea Party Caucus founded by Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann, left. I don’t know which is scarier — the political reality of this situation or these side-by-side photos of the pair. But I also wanted to share this mind-boggling assertion from The Hill’s story:

Sessions said that every Tea Party event that he’s been to over the past year and a half has consisted of “one-third Democrats, one-third Republicans and one-third Independents. They are 100 percent fired up about trying to save this country from a big government that is taxing, spending and causing deficit.”



—  John Wright