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Anti-drag Tennessee Republican leaves heart and flame emojis on gay performer’s Instagram

A Republican lawmaker from Tennessee who has helped pass some of the country’s strictest anti-LGBTQ legislation is facing scrutiny for making suggestive comments on the Instagram page of a 20-year-old drag performer.

Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally left heart and flame emojis with his verified Instagram account under explicit pictures posted to social media by aspiring gay performer Franklyn McClur.

“Finn, you can turn a rainy day into rainbows and sunshine,” Mr McNally wrote using the performer’s nickname, under a close up shot of his behind.

Tennessee Lt Governor Randy McNally commented on photo posted to Instagram by aspiring gay performer Franklyn McClur (Instagram / Franklyn McClur)
Tennessee Lt Governor Randy McNally commented on photo posted to Instagram by aspiring gay performer Franklyn McClur (Instagram / Franklyn McClur)

In another video of Mr McClur dancing, Mr McNally commented “Love it”, along with floating heart emojis.

Mr McNally writes “super look Finn” under a separate photo of Mr McClur, who posts under the name Franklyn Superstar, wearing tight shorts.

The social media posts, which had not been taken down on Thursday (9 March), were first reported by The Tennessee Holler.

‘Love it’: Tennessee Lt Gov Randy McNally is a prolific commenter on the Instagram page of young performer Franklyn McClur (Instagram / Franklyn McClur)
‘Love it’: Tennessee Lt Gov Randy McNally is a prolific commenter on the Instagram page of young performer Franklyn McClur (Instagram / Franklyn McClur)

Dozens of comments on Mr McClur’s Instagram page and elsewhere on social media accused Mr McNally of hypocrisy, after Tennessee last week passed sweeping legislation to criminalise taking part in an “adult cabaret performance” or a drag show on public property.

“The projection. The hypocrisy. Republicans are the threat,” wrote one on Twitter.

A spokesperson for Mr McNally, Adam Kleinheider, told The Independent in a statement that the lieutenant governor was a “prolific social media commentator”.

Randy McNally is highly supportive on social media of young drag performer Franklyn McClur (Instagram / Franklyn McClur)
Randy McNally is highly supportive on social media of young drag performer Franklyn McClur (Instagram / Franklyn McClur)

“Trying to imply something sinister or inappropriate about a great-grandfather’s use of social media says more about the mind of the left-wing operative making the implication than it does about Randy McNally,” Mr Kleinheider 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.”

Mr McClur, 20, told the Tennessee Holler that he connected with the lieutenant governor on social media through mutual friends.

Revelations about Mr Kleinheider’s prolific social media use came days after a photo of Tennessee governor Bill Lee wearing drag in high school resurfaced on Reddit.

Mr Lee was pictured wearing a dress, a pearl necklace and a wig under the caption “hard luck woman” in the 1977 photo taken from Franklin High School.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee says it would be ‘ridiculous’ to conflate this 1977 high school yearbook photo with the state’s anti-LGBTQ laws (Reddit / Political Humor)
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee says it would be ‘ridiculous’ to conflate this 1977 high school yearbook photo with the state’s anti-LGBTQ laws (Reddit / Political Humor)

When questioned about the picture, the Republican governor said it would be “ridiculous” to compare the yearbook photo to the drag show performances he was seeking to ban.

Tennessee became the first state to ban “adult cabaret performances” last week.

The law defines them any performance “that features topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest, or similar entertainers.”

Under the law, an initial violation of the law would lead to a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 11 months and 29 days in prison. Additional violations could lead to six years in prison.

The governor also signed a bill banning gender-affirming care for youth, which LGBTQ activists have labelled transphobic.