Tennesee Republicans voted to keep Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R) in his role as state senate speaker despite recent controversy over comments he made on a young gay man’s racy Instagram photos.
McNally will stay in leadership after a 19-7 confidence vote by the Republican caucus.
The vote came after he was caught liking, commenting, and leaving fire emojis on a young man’s thirst pics on Instagram.
McNally is a 79-year-old great-grandfather married to a woman and a part of Gov. Bill Lee’s (R) administration, which has signed multiple extreme anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law in the past several years. Last week, he commented on a close-up picture of the butt of a young man named “Franklyn” on Instagram.
“Finn, you can turn a rainy day into rainbows and sunshine!” he wrote, adding three heart and three fire emojis.
One GOP lawmaker accused him of “grooming” after it came out that McNally had befriended the gay man years ago when he was still a minor.
State Rep. Todd Warner (R) said that Republicans have not only “become the laughingstock of the nation, the bottom line is this: Randy McNally is a predator” who “began sexually grooming his victim when he was a 17-year-old minor” by “relentlessly” commenting on his social media posts, sending him private messages, and calling him.
Warner even says that McNally offered Franklyn a job he’s unqualified for in his office and accused McNally of similar relationships with others, though no one else was named in the statement.
Warner called for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to look into McNally for “possible violations of Tennessee criminal law related to the sexual exploitation of a minor” and for McNally to resign.
“I serve at the pleasure of the members of the Senate and my caucus,” McNally said in a statement, resisting calls to resign. “As long as I have their confidence, I am committed to the important work of this state.”
McNally apologized earlier this week for his social media activity and said that he would be “pausing” it as he learns more about netiquette.
“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.
At first, McNally refused to stop, with a statement from his office accusing the left of incorrectly making “something sinister” out of ” a great-grandfather’s use of social media.”
“As anyone in Tennessee politics knows, Lt. Governor McNally is a prolific social media commenter,” the statement said. “He takes great pains to view every post he can and frequently posts encouraging things to many of his followers. 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.”
Clearly, those intentions have changed.
McNally also insisted last week that he’s not anti-LGBTQ+, despite his support of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
“I’m not anti-gay,” McNally said. “Well, we pass bills that kind of limit certain things, and I think there are safeguards in there.”