NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee’s lieutenant governor says he is taking a break from social media after being caught in a controversy on Instagram.
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) released a statement Monday, saying he will be “pausing” social media use in order to “reflect and receive more guidance on the use of social media”
This comes less than a week after Instagram comments surfaced, showing McNally interacting with a young man who was posting nearly naked pictures on the social media platform.
A 20-year-old man who identified himself as Franklyn posted revealing photos, including one showing some of his backside.
The lieutenant governor’s verified Instagram account commented with heart emojis and fire emojis. His account also said, “you can turn a rainy day into rainbows and sunshine!”
The lieutenant governor’s account also commented on a picture in which it appears the man is not wearing underwear.
McNally’s account said, quote “great picture! Best wishes for continued health and happiness.”
These are just two of many other comments on Franklyn’s posts, spanning months.
News 2 spoke with Franklyn last week. He said McNally added him on Facebook in 2020, and then McNally followed his Instagram. He says McNally also sent compliments by direct messages, but they never met in person.
“To me, I’m not a stranger to compliments, so I don’t really read into them because I just think that’s wrong to assume somebody’s hitting on you just because they’re nice to you,” Franklyn told News 2 on Wednesday. “He did not say he wanted to date me or have sex or anything like that.”
News 2 also found the lieutenant governor’s account liking a picture of a woman who says she’s transgender. The picture is captioned “#transgender.”
McNally’s office sent out a statement last Wednesday night saying, in part, “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.”
Now, it appears the lieutenant governor will be taking a larger step back from social media as a whole.
McNally’s office released the following statement Monday, regarding the overall criticism of his social media use:
“I have long been active on social media. I have made a point to engage with people not only in posts, but in comments and messages as well. My comments to Franklin McClure and others, which have recently drawn so much attention, are no different. While I see now that I should have been more careful about how my comments and activity would be perceived, my intent was always engagement and encouragement. 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.
While I have made some mistakes in my use of social media, the characterization of me and my record as somehow “anti-gay” is inaccurate. On a personal level, nothing could be further from the truth. I believe every person has value and deserves respect regardless of their orientation. 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. I have worked hard to try and understand this community better, and at the same time not compromise trying to protect children and my own values. I notably came down from the Speaker’s podium to speak against a bill that would have curtailed gay adoption. I have also supported legislation that would protect children and keep obscenity out of the public sphere. And I support traditional marriage. There is no contradiction here.
I would encourage everyone to look at my record in its totality. It is both thoroughly conservative and compassionate to others. Though I may disagree with specific policies of certain LGBTQ activists, all people are deserving of love and compassion, no matter their race, gender, or any other attribute.
Criticism of my social media activity is fair, and I have taken it to heart. All I ask is that people look at the facts and my actual record. Again, conservative and “anti-gay” are not synonymous. Not generally and certainly not for me. While I realize it may not happen immediately, I am hopeful this examination of my social media activity will conclude and we can soon all get back to ensuring Tennessee remains the best state in the union to live, work and raise a family.”