Washington (CNN) – Retail giant Target has said it is "sorry" after the company donated money to a group that backs a candidate who opposes same-sex marriage.
The candidate, Tom Emmer, hopes to win Minnesota's Republican gubernatorial primary.
On Thursday, Gregg Steinhafel – the company's chairman, CEO and president – issued an apology to Target managers and other employees. The letter addresses Target's $150,000 contribution to a group called MN Forward.
"I have heard from many of you, and our team members, over the past week regarding Target's contribution to MN Forward," Steinhafel wrote. "The intent of our political contribution to MN Forward was to support economic growth and job creation."
MN Forward – which says it's focused on job creation – has spent $200,000 on ads supporting Emmer, a candidate who is staunchly against same-sex marriage.
That has caused loud criticism of Target's contribution to MN Forward. Pro-gay rights advocates angrily claim that a company that prides itself on welcoming all people should not contribute to a group that endorses an anti same-sex marriage candidate.
Many gays and lesbians online have urged a boycott of Target. In his letter, the Target chief said that the decision to contribute to MN Forward "affected many of you in a way I did not anticipate, and for that I am genuinely sorry."
The Target chief added: "We remain fully committed to fostering an environment that supports and respects the rights and beliefs of all individuals."
Emmer's campaign spokesman Brian Walsh told CNN the situation has been blown out of proportion.
"It's been turned into something else and that's unfortunate," Walsh said. "The number one issue facing the state of Minnesota is job creation."
Walsh defended MN Forward, telling CNN that creating jobs is the group's main focus and "that's what Target contributed to."
MN Forward did not respond to CNN calls for comment.
Mark Dayton, the Democrat favored to win his party's primary, is Emmer's potential opponent. Dayton's family built the Dayton's Department Stores into the Target Corporation. However, the candidate has never managed the company and does not currently own any Target stock.