Republican Lieutenant Governor of Tennessee Randy McNally has come under fire this week for liking social media posts of LGBTQ models and creators. Now, McNally is apologizing, not for Republicans’ increasing attacks on queer people, but for how he may have embarrassed his friends and family along the way.
The Tennessee Holler first broke the story earlier this week on McNally’s engagement with the LGBTQ community on Instagram. McNally specifically liked and left comments on the account of @franklynsuperstar, who goes by Franklyn and is a 20-year-old self-proclaimed musician according to his Instagram profile. According to screenshots posted by the Holler, McNally has both liked and commented on several of Franklyn’s Instagram posts using his official, verified Instagram account.
Notably, beneath a provocatively framed photo of Franklyn posing in underwear, McNally commented three heart emojis and three flame emojis, followed by a comment that read “Finn, you can turn a rainy day into rainbows and sunshine!” (Finn is Franklyn’s nickname). Franklyn replied to McNally’s first comment with “You are literally, always so nice.” McNally’s comments are still under this image—as well as several others on Franklyn’s account—at the time of writing this article.
When confronted by Tennessee’s News Channel 5, McNally owned up to engaging with Franklyn’s Instagram account, as well as the accounts of other LGBTQ community members, and apologized not to the community that his political party is actively passing legislation against, but to his friends and family.
“Initially I was not very kind to that community. As I learned some things and met some people in that community, I realized they’re still individuals and they still have value,” McNally told Phil Williams from News Channel 5 in Tennessee in an interview. McNally also said: “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.”
Franklyn told the Holler that he found McNally’s engagement random, and didn’t immediately make the connection between McNally’s position as a politician and the Tennessee Republican party’s anti-LGBTQ agenda. McNally initially pushed back on the Holler’s report in a statement sent by McNally’s communications director to Action News 5 shortly after the article was published. The statement said that the claims against McNally were made by a “left-wing operative” and that the lieutenant governor was just a great-grandfather using the wrong emojis on social media.
Tennessee is currently a hotbed of recent anti-LGBTQ legislation. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has been a vocal advocate of a ban on drag performances on public property, which was signed into law this month. A photo of Lee dressed in drag in high school emerged shortly thereafter. The bill also bans gender-affirming care for minors. Tennessee is not alone, however, as the Human Rights Campaign claims that 340 laws targeting LGBTQ individuals have been introduced to statehouses in 2023 alone.