Tennessee’s lieutenant governor apologized for commenting on dozens of racy Instagram photos posted by a young gay man over the past three years. But the 20-year-old aspiring artist said the conservative lawmaker had nothing to be ashamed of.
Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally, 79, faced criticism Thursday after Tennessee Holler, a local progressive news outlet, first reported that he had commented on partially nude Instagram photos posted by Franklin McClure as the state passed bills targeting the LGBTQ community.
In an interview Thursday with News Channel 5, a CBS affiliate in Nashville, McNealy said it was not his intention to embarrass or hurt his friends and family or colleagues in the Legislature, where he is the speaker of the Republican-led Senate. work as well.
He told NewsChannel 5, “I’m really sorry if I’ve embarrassed my family, embarrassed my friends, embarrassed any members of the legislature.”
Among the photos McNally commented on was a close-up photo of McClure’s backside, where she was wearing only what appears to be a brief. McNally wrote two comments on the post: “Finn, you can turn a rainy day into rainbows and sunshine!” and another with a heart and fire emoji, to which McClure replied, “You really are always the best king,” along with a heart emoji. McClure, popularly known as Franklin Superstar on social media, has the nickname Finn.
When NewsChannel 5 asked McNally about his reaction to that particular photo, he said he “try to encourage people with the post and try, you know, if I can So help them.”
She told NewsChannel 5 that she first befriended McClure, who is from the Knoxville area and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Facebook and then later on Instagram, but the two never had a personal relationship or met in person. Did not meet
In an interview, McClure confirmed that the two had never met, but said that McNally had sent her private messages dating back as far as June 2020. He said they were mostly “one-sided on their side”.
When asked about the content of those private messages, McClure said: “The messages, I would say, show that he definitely supported me, and if he can support me, he certainly can support many people.” make room in your heart to support.” Like me.”
McNally did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News on whether he ever privately messaged McClure.
McNally posted more than 80 comments on McClure’s Instagram account from early June 2020 to as recently as February 26, with his initial comments more like pep talks about his life and mental health in response to McClure’s posts Went.
More recently, McNally liked a photo of McClure posted in December 2022 in which McClure describes himself as a “hoe” and says he does sex for free marijuana.
When asked by News Channel 5 whether it was appropriate to like the photo, McNealy said, “Probably not, probably not.”
Some LGBTQ people and advocates questioned whether the comments and likes were appropriate given the age difference between McNally and McClure, who said she was 17 when McNally began commenting on her photos. He has also accused the Lieutenant Governor hypocritical, given that he recently voted in favor of a bill that criminalizes certain drag performances. Gov. Bill Lee, also a Republican, signed the bill last month, and it will go into effect April 1.
The lieutenant governor told NewsChannel 5 that he engaged with McClure and other LGBTQ people on Instagram because he’s trying to be more supportive of their identity.
He said that in 2020, he did not support a bill that would allow religious adoption agencies to refuse to place children with couples if doing so “contradicts the agency’s written religious or moral beliefs or policies.” would be a violation.” At the time, advocates said the bill would allow agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples. It eventually passed and Lee signed it into law.
McClure said he only learned two days ago that McNally supported bills targeting the LGBTQ community, including one that would restrict where and in front of whom drag performances could take place. He said, ‘Sad to hear this.
When asked specifically about Drag Bill, McClure speculates that McNally is “being influenced by whoever is around him” and succumbing to “peer pressure”.
“He can obviously appreciate me in some way, and if he can appreciate me, you know, I’m pretty out there. I don’t think drag queens, for the most part, you know, doing shows where she shoves her butt in everybody’s face,” he said. “People have my butt in their faces, and she’s supported some of them, so I don’t know if she’s taking people’s money, Why is he supporting a bill that hurts expression, happiness.”
McClure said he agreed with those who called McNally a “hypocrite”.
Following the Tennessee Holler story on Thursday and subsequent coverage by other news outlets, including NBC News, McClure said she has received support on social media and felt “extra special” since the news first broke.
He also said that McNeely was among those who reached out to him since the Tennessee Holler story was published on Thursday. He described the communication as “just a message from me to thank everyone for being so kind.”
When asked about McNally’s televised apology, McClure said “it’s sad” that McNally felt the need to apologize.
“They appreciated my post, whatever the reason was, and I don’t think you should be ashamed. I think it’s telling about Tennessee, it’s telling about Republicans and homophobic,” he said. . “I think it’s sad that we live in a society where we can’t just be friends, right? Instead of thinking that we need to change each other, we can all help each other out.” Can’t love and appreciate each other for who we are.
Tennessee Republicans have proposed more than two dozen bills so far this year that target LGBTQ rights, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is tracking the legislation. Asked if he wanted to send a message to McNally and other lawmakers in his home state who are supporting such measures, McClure specifically referred to the drag bill, saying, “Anyone wearing a wig Not hurting anybody.”
He then went on to refer to another bill the governor signed, which bans transitionary care for minors, including puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgery, saying, “Just because you believe someone, a The child or whoever shouldn’t be able to get the infection doesn’t mean you should be able to pass it on to someone else.
When NewsChannel 5 asked McNally if he felt the controversy affected his ability to lead, he said, “I hope not.” Regarding whether he has considered resigning, McNealy said, “I think it’s really up to the members of the Senate. I will serve at their pleasure, and they are my boss.”
As for McClure, he is currently raising money to move to Los Angeles, where he hopes to become a successful performing artist and the “male version” of rapper Doja Cat, whom he calls his inspiration.