Gay Instagrammer Says Tennessee Lawmaker Shouldn’t Be Shamed For Liking Tragic Photos

Tennessee’s lieutenant governor has apologized for commenting on dozens of racist Instagram photos posted by a young gay man over the past three years. But the 20-year-old aspiring performer said the Conservative MP had nothing to be ashamed of.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, 79, faced criticism Thursday after Tennessee Holler, a local progressive news outlet, first reported that he had commented on partially nude Instagram photos posted by Franklyn McClure as the state passed bills that target the LGBTQ community.

In an interview Thursday with NewsChannel 5, the CBS affiliate in Nashville, McNally said it was not his intention to embarrass or hurt his friends and family or his colleagues in the Legislature, where he also serves as speaker. of the Republican-led Senate.

“I’m really, really sorry if I embarrassed my family, embarrassed my friends, embarrassed any of the members of the legislature with the posts,” he told NewsChannel 5.

Tennessee Lt. Governor Randy McNally in Nashville on May 1, 2019.Mark Humphrey / AP file

Among the photos McNally commented on was a close-up of McClure’s back, wearing only what appear to be briefs. McNally wrote two comments on the post: “Finn, you can turn a rainy day into rainbows and sunshine!” and another with a hearts and fire emoji, to which McClure replied, “You’re literally always so cool King,” with a heart emoji. Finn is the nickname of McClure, who is known as Franklyn Superstar on social media.

When NewsChannel 5 asked McNally about his response to that particular photo, he said he tries to “encourage people with posts and try to, you know, help them if I can.”

She told NewsChannel 5 that she first befriended McClure, who is from the Knoxville area and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Facebook and later on Instagram, but that the two never had a personal relationship or met in person.

In an interview, McClure confirmed the two had never met, but said McNally had sent him private messages, the first dating back to June 2020. He said they were mostly “one-sided on his side ».

When asked about the content of those private messages, McClure said: “The messages, I would say, show that he definitely supported me, and if he can support me, he can definitely make room in his heart to support many, many more people . like me.”

McNally did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment on whether he had ever personally messaged McClure.

McNally posted more than 80 comments on McClure’s Instagram account from early June 2020 to February 26, with his initial comments more like conversations in response to McClure’s posts about his life and mental health.

Most recently, McNally liked a photo McClure posted in December 2022 in which McClure describes himself as a “hoe” and says he performs sex acts for free marijuana.

When News Channel 5 asked if it was appropriate to like the photo, McNally said, “Probably not, probably not.”

Some LGBTQ people and supporters questioned whether the comments and likes were appropriate given the age difference between McNally and McClure, who said he was 17 when McNally started commenting on his photos. They have also accused the deputy governor of hypocrisy, noting that he recently voted in favor of a bill criminalizing certain drag shows. Gov. Bill Lee, also a Republican, signed the bill into law last month and it will take effect April 1.

The deputy commander told NewsChannel 5 he took on McClure and other LGBTQ people on Instagram because he’s trying to be more supportive of their identities.

He noted that in 2020, he did not support a bill allowing religious adoption agencies to refuse to place children with couples if doing so would “violate the agency’s written religious or moral beliefs or policies.” At the time, supporters said the bill would allow agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples. It eventually passed and Lee signed it into law.

McClure said he only found out two days ago that McNally has supported bills targeting the LGBTQ community, including a bill to limit where and in front of whom drag shows can take place. “That was sad to hear,” he said.

When asked specifically about the attraction account, McClure speculated that McNally is “influenced by whoever is around him” and succumbs to “peer pressure.”

“Obviously he can appreciate me in some way, and if he can appreciate me, you know, I’m pretty out there. I don’t think drag queens, for the most part, you know, do shows where they just stick their butts in everybody’s face,” she said. “I’ve got my butt in people’s faces and he’s supported some of them, so I don’t know why he’s supporting a bill to hurt people’s money, expression, happiness.”

McClure said he agrees with those who call McNally a “hypocrite.”

After the Tennessee Holler story Thursday and subsequent coverage from other news outlets, including NBC News, McClure said he has received an outpouring of support on social media and has felt “extremely special” since the news broke.

He also said McNally was among those who contacted him since the Tennessee Holler story was published Thursday. He described the communication as “just a message to me saying thank you for being kind to everyone.”

When asked about McNally’s televised apology, McClure said “it’s sad” that McNally felt the need to apologize.

“He appreciated my posts, for whatever reason, and I don’t think you should be ashamed. I think he’s talking about Tennessee, about Republicans, and about homophobes,” he said. “I think it’s sad that we live in a society where we can’t all be friends, right? Can’t we just love each other and appreciate each other for who we are, instead of thinking we have to change each other.”

Tennessee Republicans have introduced more than two dozen bills so far this year that target LGBTQ rights, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which tracks the legislation. When asked if he wanted to send a message to McNally and other lawmakers in his home state who support such measures, McClure said, “Nobody’s hurting anybody by wearing a wig,” specifically referring to the drag bill.

He then added, referring to another bill the governor signed that bans transition-related care for minors, including puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery, “Because you believe that someone, a child or anyone else, it should not be able to switch. This means you should be able to impose it on someone else.

When NewsChannel 5 asked McNally if he thinks the controversy is affecting his ability to lead, he said, “I hope not.” On whether he has considered resigning, McNally said, “I think that’s really up to the members of the Senate. I would gladly serve them and they are my boss.”

As for McClure, he’s currently raising money to move to Los Angeles, where he hopes to become a successful artist and a “male version” of rapper Doja Cat, who he called his inspiration.

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