The lieutenant governor of Tennessee, Randy McNally is speaking out after he found himself embroiled in a scandal when it was revealed that he frequently liked and commented on Instagram photos of a barely dressed young gay man despite supporting the state’s new law banning drag queens from public performances and stripping young people of access to gender-affirming medical care.
“I’m really, really sorry if I’ve embarrassed my family, embarrassed my friends, embarrassed any of the members of the legislature with the posts,” McNally told Nashville’s CBS affiliate WTVF Thursday.“It was not my intent to [embarrass them] and not my intent to hurt them.”
After reporters exposed the 79-year-old’s eyebrow-raising social media interactions with 20-year-old Franklin McClure amid a legislative session that included measures outlawing drag shows in public places and targeting access to gender-affirming care for transgender people, he was accused of hypocrisy.
McNally admitted that he and the young man became friends on Facebook first and then on Instagram.
The lieutenant governor doled out many fire and heart emojis and comments on posts encouraging McClure. In one of the posts, one can see a close-up of his buttocks covered in underwear. Seemingly delighted by the post, McNally gave it several fire and heart emojis in the comments.
In a follow-up comment on the same post, McNally wrote, “Finn, you can turn a rainy day into rainbows and sunshine,” using McClure’s nickname.
The GOP lawmaker tried to explain his reasoning for the comments.
“I, you know, try to encourage people with posts and try to, you know, help them if I can,” McNally said to WTVF.
He said his intentions were” basically trying to encourage him.”
When asked whether he had ever met McClure, McNally said he hadn’t.
For his part, the lieutenant governor has commented on other posts from members of the LGBTQ+ community. He explained that his attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community have evolved and that through friends and family members who identify with the community, his eyes have opened, and he’s trying to be more affirming the station reports.
When he was pressed to identify an issue that he’s supported the LGBTQ+ community on, McNally responded, “Uh, huh. There was a bill about adoption.”
WTVF reports that he spoke out against anti-LGBTQ legislation that riled the business community before voting against a bill in 2020 that would have allowed adoption agencies to discriminate against potential LGBTQ+ parents. In Tennessee, the lieutenant governor is also a voting member of the state Senate.
On Thursday, when reporters caught up with McNally outside the Senate chambers and asked him about the controversy, he tried to explain himself.
“I have friends in that community, and I’m not against those individuals. I just try to encourage and support individuals that I know,” he said.
Asked about the appropriateness of his responses, McNally said, “I probably could have been a little more careful in my selection of things.”
Since the lieutenant governor indicated that he evolved on LGBTQ+ issues, he was asked whether he’d changed his position as somebody who voted against marriage equality before it became the law of the land. McNally said he hadn’t.
“I thought that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and I still kind of feel that way,” he said.
He indicated that he hadn’t considered resigning because he had received the support of fellow lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.
“I think that that’s really up to the members of the Senate,” he said. “I would serve at their pleasure, and they are my boss.”