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, a Republican, released a statement Monday saying he will be “pausing” social media use 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.
McNally, a Republican, initially stated last week that he “had no intention of stopping” when pressed about why he repeatedly commented on racy social media posts by the 20-year-old. He later issued an apology, saying it was not his intention to embarrass his friends, family or members of the legislature.
However, the 79-year-old legislative leader has since received national attention — including being parodied on Saturday Night Live — with critics accusing McNally of being hypocritical. Particularly, McNally supported legislation restricting where certain drag shows can take place.
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.
Franklyn told WRKN that McNally added him on Facebook in 2020, and McNally then 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.”
WKRN 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 a new statement on Monday, saying in part:
“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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.