Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R) apologized to his family, friends and colleagues Thursday following allegations of hypocrisy for his comments on a gay man’s suggestive Instagram posts.
McNally had been leaving heart and fire emoji, along with occasional remarks like “Super look Finn,” beneath photographs of Franklyn “Finn” McClur, an aspiring performer often seen dressed only in tight underwear, as first reported by progressive news site The Tennessee Holler.
The politician’s social media activity drew criticism due to his history of backing anti-LGBTQ legislation.
In a new interview with WTVF, a local news station, McNally said he had recently gotten to know members of the LGBTQ community — some being a part of his family — and was trying to be more supportive. Asked for evidence of his support, McNally pointed to a 2020 bill seeking to let religious adoption agencies discriminate against gay couples. The lieutenant governor, who also serves as speaker for the state Senate, voted “present and not voting” on the legislation, which ultimately passed.
This year, he voted for a ban on gender-affirming care for Tennessee minors, which also passed.
Twenty-year-old McClur, who grew up in Knoxville, told The Tennessee Holler that he and McNally had initially become Facebook friends a few years ago, and that the lieutenant governor had since started using his verified government account on Instagram to leave the comments.
At first, a spokesperson for McNally dismissed questions about his behavior, saying that he frequently used social media to connect with constituents.
“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.
But in the WTVF interview, McNally changed his tune.
“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,” he said.
Asked to explain why he wrote, “Finn, you can turn a rainy day into rainbows and sunshine,” beneath a close-up photo of McClur’s butt in just underwear, McNally said, “It’s that, you know, I, you know, try to encourage people with posts and try to, you know, help them if I can.”
McNally added that he was “basically trying to encourage him.”
He told WTVF that he had never met McClur in person, which McClur also told The Tennessee Holler.
“I just thought he was older and out of touch,” McClur told the outlet. “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.”