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Tenn. Lt. Gov. McNally apologizes after repeatedly commenting on racy Instagram posts

House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally speak ahead of Gov. Bill Lee's State of the State Address. Monday, Feb. 06, 2023.
Blaise Gainey
House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally speak ahead of Gov. Bill Lee's State of the State Address. Monday, Feb. 06, 2023.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Republican Lt. Gov. Randy McNally has confirmed that for "a little while" he has been liking and leaving comments on social media photos of an openly gay Tennessee man who often poses nearly naked.

McNally, who is also a member of the state Senate and serves as its head, has left numerous comments on Franklyn McClur's Instagram photos with phrases such as "love it!" and heart and flame emojis. One comment reads, "Finn, you can turn a rainy day into rainbows and sunshine."

In an interview Thursday night with News Channel 5 in Nashville, McNally apologized saying, "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."

Serving in the legislature since 1978, McNally is being called out after years of supporting bills that restrict the rights of LGBTQ people in the state.

Thursday, the 79-year-old was questioned by reporters at the state Capitol for his social media activity. He confirmed his actions and defended them saying "I'm not anti-gay."

McNally has spoken out against gay marriage in the past and said Thursday that he still "kind of" feels that way, "But I still have [gay] friends that are married." He also pointed out there was a time he spoke against legislation that would have prevented gay couples from adopting.

In response to McNally's comments, McClur spoke with the website the Tennessee Holler and said he found it hypocritical that the lieutenant governor would like his posts but support bills that harm the LGBTQ community.

Some have found his apology on News Channel 5confusing after McNally confirmed and stood by his posts Thursday in front of the press. Also, in a statement, his press secretary said the lieutenant governor "enjoys interacting with constituents and Tennesseans of all religions, backgrounds and orientations on social media. He has no intention of stopping."

McNally's voting record

This year, the lieutenant governor was recovering from a heart procedure when the state Senate voted to pass bills eliminating gender-affirming care for transgender people under 18 and banning drag performances in public places where children may see them. (That law is the first of its kind in the country and comes with the potential for jail time.)

Though in his absence he didn't vote for the bills, McNally has said he believes "sexual reassignment" surgery should be delayed until adulthood, even if parents give the OK.

Two years in a row, McNally voted to limit sports participation on the basis of sex assigned at birth. He voted for another bill that allows individuals to refuse to share bathrooms and locker rooms with transgender people.

Even though he is the lieutenant governor, McNally may be a relatively unknown name, even in Tennessee. Instead of being elected by voters, he's elected by the legislature to the lieutenant governor post. Still, if Gov. Bill Lee were unable to serve his in his post for any reason, McNally would assume the office of governor.

Acacia Squires, NPR's States Team editor, contributed to this story.

Copyright 2023 WPLN

Blaise Gainey