Urban Outfitters has some thrilling news for all you voters out there. On Monday afternoon, Urban, the retailer for twenty-somethings who want to spend about forty bucks to look like they found their outfit near a dusty, deserted stretch of railroad track, tweeted “a handy guide” to its one million followers stuffed with voting information.
Oh, sorry, did I say voting information? I mean voting misinformation. The guide included a section called “Requirements” that told readers they couldn’t cast a ballot without bringing a “voter’s registration card,” along with a photo ID, to the polls. Exactly zero states require a voter registration card.
In a statement to ProPublica, Urban announced it would amend the guide “immediately” and scrub out the false information. By Tuesday morning, the original tweet was deleted and the guide updated. Urban Outfitters tweeted an apology:
We’re deeply sorry about the error in the UO Blog’s voting guide. It's been corrected & now includes a link to state-by-state requirements.
— Urban Outfitters (@UrbanOutfitters) November 8, 2016
This “guide” comes on the heels of fake “vote by text” advertisements that were floating around Twitter earlier this month. The hoax campaign ads targeted Hillary Clinton voters, encouraging her supporters to “vote from home” by texting Hillary to 59925. Twitter eventually banned at least one account that was spreading the advertisements, though at first responded to the reports by saying the fake ads didn’t violate the site’s Terms of Service.
Urban Outfitters is, to put it kindly, one of the more PR-challenged retailers in the modern marketplace. In 2014, the manufacturer sold a “Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt” that appeared to be splattered with blood, a totally cool and not horrifying reference to the shooting that left four dead on Kent State’s campus in 1970. (Urban’s response: “It was never our intention to allude to the tragic events… The one-of-a-kind item was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection.”) Before that, Urban was roundly criticized for selling a “Kellog” t-shirt that looked an awful lot like a concentration camp uniform (the six-pointed yellow star only “allegedly” bore a resemblance to the badge Jews were forced to wear under Nazi rule, according to the t-shirt’s designer); for appropriating the Navajo Nation name and imagery (the wares “were not insensitive,” according to Urban); for shilling St. Patrick’s Day products emblazoned with “Kiss Me, I’m Drunk, Or Irish, Or Whatever.” For a while, Urban was also selling a v-neck t-shirt for women with the words “Eat Less” scrawled across the front.
Due to the aforementioned controversies, Urban Outfitters has never been the paragon of good taste, and — barring some sudden acquisition of conscience — it never will be. But this “voter guide” scans as even more insidious than Urban’s typical sartorial screw-ups.
Urban might cater to a crowd young and liberal enough to want their sparkly going-out tank tops to be more armhole than fabric, but its founder and CEO is 69-year-old billionaire Richard Hayne. In 2003, Hayne donated $13,150 to then-Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (R), who, that same year, compared homosexuality to bestiality and incest. (Santorum’s name not ringing a bell? Go ahead and Google him!) At the time, Hayne told Philadelphia Weekly that he wouldn’t comment on Santorum’s views — re: is gay marriage just Flowers in the Attic, but for animals — saying instead, “Our job as a business is not to promote a political agenda. That’s not what we do.” Five years later, Urban pulled a pro-gay shirt from its shelves, though the official line on why the “I Support Same Sex Marriage” tees vanished from the stores in under a week was “poor sales.”