Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

McNally’s Encouraging Habit

Tennessee’s lieutenant governor says flirtatious Instagram comments are meant to be supportive.

(Randy McNally/Twitter)

Tennessee’s lieutenant governor is exposed. 

Reports last week found Republican Randy McNally using his official Instagram account to follow, like, and repeatedly comment on the sexually explicit Instagram postings of one gay former Tennessean. Franklin McClure, previously one of McNally’s constituents and apparently also a cross-dresser, has assured media outlets there was nothing nefarious between him and the lieutenant governor—just some nice, friendly fire emojis posted on photos of the young man’s barely-clad backside. 


It’s one of those rare instances in which a corner of the world of politics is laid uncomfortably bare. Commentators, especially of the left-leaning variety, are bursting with the hypocrisy of it. In truth, they couldn’t have created a better example if they had tried: An old, white, male Republican, in a deep red Southern state, has been found ogling barely dressed young men in lipstick while passing bills to ban public drag performances. It’s a Saturday Night Live! joke in real life, and since the regime’s comedians excel in the field of low-hanging fruit, it became one on television, too.

For McNally’s own part, he doesn’t seem to understand quite why his behavior is so shocking. This almost lends the situation some real humor. Defending himself, the lieutenant governor leaned on his one-time advocacy for gay couples to retain the right to adopt children in Tennessee, adamant to prove he is not “anti-gay.” His spokesperson, meanwhile, has chalked the whole thing up to an old man not knowing how to use Instagram. The 79-year-old politician has been commenting on now-20-year-old McClure’s posts for a few years, and according to his spokesperson “has no intention of stopping” his active Instagram engagement, though McNally has since said he will take a brief “pause” from the app. Indeed, he was discovered to have liked posts on multiple LGBT accounts and many, like McClure’s, were plainly pornographic.

Under the camera lights of a local news interview, the lieutenant governor appeared sweaty. He told the interviewer his only intentions with the comments were to be “encouraging”—of what, one might reasonably wonder. 

“A lot of times on some people's posts you see the name and you see what they've written, and you just press the button that says like,” McNally said. While McNally denied seeing a reference to marijuana in one post he liked, he admitted he “might have read” the part in which the young man called himself a prostitute, seemingly in jest. “I probably could have been a little more careful in my selection,” McNally said in another media appearance

For more than four decades, McNally has been a permanent fixture in Tennessee’s state legislature, serving in both the house and the senate prior to his appointment as lieutenant governor in 2017. (In Tennessee, the lieutenant governor serves a dual role, elected by the state senators to preside over the upper chamber and replace the governor should he be incapable of performing his duties.) During his time as lieutenant governor, McNally has supported his colleagues’ proposals to ban hormone therapy for gender-confused children and protect single-sex spaces such as sports teams, bathrooms, and locker rooms, in addition to the recent adult cabaret law that bans drag performances in any public space where minors might be present. Yet, as McNally has reminded reporters and Tennesseans quite proudly over the past week, for the past several years, he has tried to walk a line between promoting “traditional Tennessee values” and engaging in what he imagines are attempts to “understand [the LGBT] community better.” 


“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,” he said. 

He’s right, though likely not in the way he intends. There is no contradiction between McNally’s social media smut and his equivocations on what it means to hold traditional values, but there is a contradiction, and a grave one at that, between protecting the family and whatever is happening between his eyes and his screens. Even if he doesn’t know how to use Instagram, suggesting a 79-year-old man doesn’t know pornography when he sees it is asking us to be more dense than, well, a politician liking raunchy mirror selfies on his public account. While his political hypocrisy is relevant, it is hardly the bottom line. The bottom line is the avowed conservative Catholic father and grandfather engaging in behavior online that should make any man with a conscience want to repent. 

And he’s getting all but a free pass from his party. 

McNally should have “time to evaluate and then proceed. I have tremendous respect for the man,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, next in line for the governorship after McNally. Indeed, McNally claims several members of the General Assembly, both Republican and Democrat, have expressed their support for him in this time. When the offending politician was scheduled to offer a Scripture reading at Bill Lee’s annual prayer breakfast on Tuesday, McNally didn’t show and the governor’s office gave him cover, simply skipping his part of the programming without offering an explanation.

This is not to be anyone’s concern, apparently. So long as the man can whip votes for the party line, it’s not supposed to matter to us what happens behind closed doors—or even right under our very noses. 


Become a Member today for a growing stake in the conservative movement.
Join here!
Join here