Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, a Republican who has backed bills targeting LGBTQ people, left heart and flame emojis under suggestive Instagram posts from a 20-year-old man, political blog Tennessee Holler reported on Wednesday.
McNally, who is married to a woman, commented under a number of the man’s not-safe-for-work photos with compliments like “love it,” “super look” and a clapping emoji, according to the site. His account also liked a photo of a woman with the caption “#transgender,” WKRN reported.
A spokesperson for McNally did not deny the legitimacy of the comments on the 20-year-old man’s page, chalking them up to the Republican’s “prolific” social media commenting abilities.
“Trying to imply something sinister or inappropriate about a great-grandfather’s use of social media says more about the mind of the left-wing operative making the implication than it does about Randy McNally,” the spokesperson said, according to WKRN.
The spokesperson added: “He takes great pains to view every post he can and frequently posts encouraging things to many of his followers. Does he always use the proper emoji at the proper time? Maybe not. But he enjoys interacting with constituents and Tennesseans of all religions, backgrounds and orientations on social media. He has no intention of stopping.”
Tennessee’s Republican leaders ― including McNally, who also serves as speaker of the state Senate ― have pushed for multiple pieces of legislation targeting the LGBTQ community, particularly trans people.
In 2011, McNally voted for legislation to prohibit the discussion of any sexuality but heterosexuality in schools. He voted in 2021 for a bill to keep transgender students from using the bathrooms that correspond with their gender, which Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed into law. The same year, McNally voted to ban transgender students from playing on school sports teams for their gender, which Lee also signed into law.
This year, Tennessee enacted a law that bans gender-affirming health care for minors and bans public drag performances.
Franklyn McClur, the Instagram user whose photos McNally commented on, was critical of the drag ban in an interview with the Tennessee Holler but said he doesn’t have a “negative opinion” of McNally. He said the two have been friends online since 2020.
“I just thought he was older and out of touch,” McClur told the Tennessee Holler. “I’ve always taken it as a compliment. I don’t dislike him or think he’s a bad person, he’s one of the only people who has consistently uplifted me and made me feel good.”
McNally isn’t alone in having his actions seemingly contradict his political history. A resurfaced photo of Lee revealed that he once wore drag in a 1977 high school yearbook photo.