Lieutenant governor suspending social media activity amid questions about posts

By: - March 14, 2023 6:01 am
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, photographed by John Partipilo on Nov, 7, 2022.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, photographed by John Partipilo on Nov, 7, 2022.

Two days after being skewered on Saturday Night Live, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally is stopping his social media activity amid questions about his posts on the Instagram pictures of a young, scantily-clad gay man.

Asked earlier Monday if he would resign, McNally said he serves “at the pleasure of the members of the Senate and my caucus. As long as I have their confidence, I am committed to the important works of this state. We have several pieces of crucial legislation, as well as a budget to pass. I remain committed to that critical work.”

The lieutenant governor appeared to shift on his use of social media, though.

McNally last week said he would continue making social media posts and in a Monday statement noted his comments to Franklin McClure, a man who dresses in a risque fashion and goes by the Instagram handle Franklyn Superstar, are no different than others he’s made while engaging with people on the Internet.

The Oak Ridge Republican acknowledged he should have been more careful about how his comments would be perceived but said his goal was to encourage people.

“I apologize for any embarrassment my postings have caused my family, friends and colleagues. For this reason, I will be pausing my social media activity in order to reflect and receive more guidance on the use of social media,” he said in his statement.

In addition to being lampooned on Saturday Night Live, McNally was hammered over the weekend by ultra-conservative Tennessee Stands organizer Gary Humble and urged to resign by the conservative news site Tennessee Star.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson said Monday he had “scanned” McNally’s statement but had not looked at it in detail. He said he would take a closer look at it and try to have “a little chat” with the lieutenant governor.

Asked if he has concerns about McNally’s posts, Johnson said, “We’ve been pretty busy with things in the Legislature, and I’ve been trying to respect him. He’s had a 40-plus-year career of distinguished service up here, and I think he’s earned the right to have a little space.” 

Asked if the Tennessee Star is voicing his opinion, Johnson said the only voice he has “comes from my mouth. No one is a voice for me.” Johnson added that believes McNally should have “time to evaluate and then proceed. I have tremendous respect for the man.”

Democratic lawmakers declined to take a public jab at McNally last week when the news broke that he was putting heart and fire emojis on a young gay man’s sites. Privately, onlookers question whether McNally will be able to make it through the last three years of a four-year term. He also had a pacemaker inserted three weeks ago after suffering a heart problem. 

Though he admitted making mistakes on social media, McNally said he should not be characterized as “anti-gay,” contending “noting could be further from the truth.” Some critics have questioned how he could make encouraging statements to young gay men but support legislation restricting drag shows and prohibiting transgender therapy for minors.

“I believe every person has value and deserves respect regardless of their orientation,” McNally said in the statement. “I am 79 years old and was raised in a time when homosexuality was deeply shameful. And I absolutely still hold traditional Tennessee values dear. But I now have friends and even a relative who is gay.”

McNally added he is trying to understand the LGBTQ community better “and at the same time not compromise trying to protect children and my own values.”

He pointed out he came down from the speaker’s podium previously to oppose legislation curtailing gay adoption but also supported the bill to “protect children” and keep obscenity out of the “public sphere.”

“And I support traditional marriage,” he said. “There is no contradiction there.”

McNally asked people to consider his entire record, saying it is “thoroughly conservative and compassionate.” And even though he disagrees with policies of some LGBTQ activists, he said “all people are deserving of love and compassion, no matter their race, gender, or any other attribute.”

The lieutenant governor, who also serves as Senate speaker, said the criticism of his social media use is “fair” and that he has “taken it to heart.” But he pointed out that “conservative and ‘anti-gay’ are not synonymous. Not generally and not for me.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Sam Stockard
Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard is a veteran Tennessee reporter and editor, having written for the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, where he served as lead editor when the paper won an award for being the state's best Sunday newspaper two years in a row. He has led the Capitol Hill bureau for The Daily Memphian. His awards include Best Single Editorial and Best Single Feature from the Tennessee Press Association.