Fact check: Story of girl’s father punching the person who followed her into a Target bathroom likely stems from meme pages and features unrelated photo

by Reuters
Thursday, 11 February 2021 10:13 GMT

FILE PHOTO: A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California, Irvine in Irvine, California September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

Image Caption and Rights Information
A social media meme claims to show a daughter with her father who had punched a man for following her into a bathroom - the story is untrue

A meme on social media claims to show a young girl posing with her father and contains the following text: “A man followed a young girl into a bathroom at a Target store in Gastonia, saying he identified as a woman. The man’s teeth were knocked out by the girl’s father, who says he identifies as the tooth fairy.” Though the image of the father and daughter is authentic, the claim that they were involved in an incident at Target is false. Reuters found no evidence of incidents matching this allegation taking place in any Target store location.

Examples of posts making this claim can be found here , here and here .

Though the posts may have been intended as humorous, some Facebook users have taken the claim seriously, leaving comments such as “Go dad,” “A hero for sure!!!” and “I’ll knock teeth out of a man’s mouth if he follows my daughters in a bathroom! Hell NO!”

The father pictured in the photograph in this meme is Gavin Gavlaarr Johnston, who went viral in 2015 after posting a picture of himself smiling with his daughter as she wears a T-shirt with his shirtless picture on it and the words, "Stay Clear Boys, this is my dad!" ( here , here ). 

The Reuters Fact Check team reached Johnston via Facebook messenger, who confirmed that he and his daughter are indeed pictured in the newly-circulating meme. Johnston, whose family lives in the United Kingdom, confirmed that the Target story did not happen to him and his daughter.

“To be honest I just scroll past now as there are so many different variants and photos. Oh well, my own fault for going viral in the first place I guess lol,” Johnston told Reuters.

Similar memes using the Johnstons’ image say that the alleged bathroom incident happened in a Target bathroom in Texas (here) as well as the bathroom of an Asda supermarket in London, United Kingdom (here).

The Gastonia referenced in the meme is likely Gastonia, North Carolina, where there is a Target store (here). Target spokesperson Jenna Reck told Reuters via email that she had connected with the company's security team, who confirmed that there had not been an incident like this in a Gastonia Target.

As reported here by Business Insider, Target did face boycott calls after a man exposed himself to a girl in the women's bathroom of one of its Chicago-area stores in 2018.

In a Facebook post (here) U.S. evangelist Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, blamed the incident on Target’s bathroom policy, which since 2016 has allowed “transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity (here).”

Chicago NBC affiliate WMAQ-TV reported here that Target spokesperson Danielle Schumann told the station at the time that the suspect was intoxicated. There is no indication that the man who reportedly exposed himself was transgender.

VERDICT

False. The daughter and father shown in the meme have not been involved in any incident related to a bathroom at Target or another store. There have been no reported incidents similar to the one described in the meme at Target stores near Gastonia, North Carolina.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts www.reuters.com/fact-check/about .