‘I was trying to encourage him’: Drag ban backing Republican explains why he liked gay man’s racy Instagram photos

Randy McNally apologises following allegations of hypocrisy for liking semi-nude posts and trans adult performer after he helped pass state’s anti-drag law

Alex Woodward
New York
Friday 10 March 2023 19:04 GMT
Tennessee lieutenant governor apologises after uproar over racy social media posts

A top Republican elected official who tried to ban drag performances in Tennessee has sought to explain his actions after facing accusations of hypocrisy for leaving heart and flame emojis under explicit pictures of a gay model and posting supportive comments for a transgender adult performer.

Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally ushered through the state’s widely condemned legislation banning public drag performances and has overseen a GOP-dominated state Senate that helped outlaw gender-affirming care for the state’s transgender youth.

During the same time period, he interacted frequently with racy images on Instagram from LGBT+ models on his official Instagram.

Mr McNally apologised in an interview with Nashville’s NewChannel 5 following national outcry after the posts were first uncovered by progressive website Tennessee Holler.

“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 in an interview that aired on 9 March. “It was not my intent … to hurt them.”

In one post with a close-up photo of a young man’s underwear, Mr McNally commented “you can turn a rainy day into rainbows and sunshine.”

He also called a trans adult performer “super beautiful” under an Instagram post with photos from what appeared to be a cabaret performance.

Asked what people should take away from his comments, Mr McNally told NewsChannel 5: “I don’t know that they should take away a whole lot.”

“It’s that, you know, I, you know, try to encourage people with posts and try to, you know, help them if I can,” he added.

In other Instagram posts featuring a semi-nude model, Mr McNally wrote “you need to be on dancing with the stars” and “love it” alongside a heart emoji.

The man in the photos, 20-year-old Franklyn McClur, told Tennessee Holler that he connected with the lieutenant governor on social media through mutual friends.

Mr McNally was “just basically trying to encourage him,” he said.

He also was confronted about a post in which the young man described himself as “not a whore” but a “hoe.”

“One is a SLUT and the other is a PROSTITUTE,” he wrote. “I’m the one that gets free weed for giving head.”

“I don’t know that, a lot of times on some people’s posts you see the name and you see what they’ve written, and you just press the button that says like,” Mr McNally told NewsChannel 5. “I don’t recall reading the part about the weed, I know that.”

He said he “might have read” the part in the post about being a “prostitute”.

The lieutenant governor insisted to NewsChannel 5 that he has never met Mr McClur in person or had any personal relationship with him.

Earlier this week, a spokesperson for Mr McNally told The Independent that the lieutenant governor is a “prolific social media commentator”.

“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,” Adam Kleinheider said.

“He takes great pains to view every post he can and frequently posts encouraging things to many of his followers,” he added. “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 Lt Governor Randy McNally commented on photo posted to Instagram by aspiring gay performer Franklyn McClur (Instagram / Franklyn McClur)

Mr McNally, who had previously voiced concerns about state lawmakers adopting measures that could negatively impact LGBT+ people, voted against a bill allowing adoption agencies to discriminate against gay couples in 2020. Last month, he voted for the state’s drag performance ban. He was not present for the recent vote to outlaw gender-affirming care for trans minors.

Asked why he has not vocally supported LGBT+ people despite his social media interactions, Mr McNally told NewsChannel 5 that it “depends upon the issue.”

Tennessee is the first state to effectively outlaw public drag performance by prohibiting “adult cabaret performance” featuring “male or female impersonators” on public property or in the presence of children. It bans drag performances within 1,000 feet of schools, public parks, or places of worship, which LGBT+ advocates fear could effectively criminalise trans people existing in public and threaten Pride parades.

State lawmakers across the US this year have introduced more than 400 bills identified by the Human Rights Campaign as harmful to LGBT+ Americans. At least 175 measures would specifically restrict the rights of transgender people, the highest number of bills targeting transgender people in a single year to date, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Dozens of bills are aimed at prohibiting trans youth from accessing medically supported gender-affirming healthcare, and state lawmakers have introduced more so-called “bathroom bills” this year than in any other year.

At least 30 bills would restrict or prohibit drag performances.

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