Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally announced Monday that he is «pausing» his social media activity after revelations that he repeatedly commented on risqué photos of a 20-year-old gay man.
«While I now see that I should have been more careful about how my comments and activity would be perceived, my intent was always engagement and encouragement,» McNally said in a statement. «For this reason, I will be pausing my social media activity to reflect and receive further guidance on the use of social media.»
McNally, Republican and president of the state senate, He apologized last week after it was revealed that he had been commenting on the Instagram posts of artist Franklin McClure, a Knoxville native who now resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. According to an NBC News analysis, McNally commented on McClure’s posts more than 80 times from June 2020 to February 26.
Many of McNally’s critics have accused him of hypocrisy, pointing out that while commenting on McClure’s provocative posts, he was voting for legislation targeting Tennessee’s LGBTQ community.
Since then, the 79-year-old lawmaker’s social media posts have garnered national attention, even becoming the subject of a skit on NBC’s «Saturday Night Live» over the weekend.
Some of McNally’s most recent, and possibly flirtatious, comments were about photos showing McClure half-naked. McNally posted two comments in a close-up photo of McClure’s rear, writing: «Finn, you can turn a rainy day into rainbows and sunshine!». and adding hearts and fire emojis.
McClure said in an interview with NBC News last week that he agrees with those who have called McNally a «hypocrite,» noting that the self-identified conservative voted in favor of the bill that would restrict some drag performances. The measure was signed by the Republican governor of Tennessee. , Bill Lee, and goes into effect on April 1.
“Obviously he can appreciate me in a way, and if he can appreciate me, you know, I’m pretty much out there. I don’t think drag queens are, for the most part, doing shows where they put their butts in everyone’s face,” McClure said. «I’ve got my ass in people’s faces, and he’s supported some of them, so I don’t know why he’s supporting a bill to hurt people’s money, speech, and happiness.»
In his statement Monday, McNally called criticism of his social media activity «fair» but said allegations that he or his legislative record is «anti-gay» are «inaccurate.»
«On a personal level, nothing could be further from the truth. I believe that every person has value and deserves respect, regardless of their orientation,» he said. «I’ve worked hard to try to better understand this community and at the same time not compromise on trying to protect the children and my own values.»
While he affirmed his support for the state bill restricting drag performances and said he supports «traditional marriage,» he noted that he spoke out against a bill to allow taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies to refuse to work with same-sex prospective parents (the bill was finally signed by the governor in January 2020).
«I would encourage everyone to see my record in its entirety,» he added. «He is both completely conservative and compassionate towards others.»