Lt. Gov. McNally distances himself from 'Tennessee on Me campaign'

Posted at 5:38 PM, Jul 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-06 18:39:57-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Governor Lee's new tourism campaign "Tennessee on Me" has drawn criticism from state officials including Lt. Governor Randy McNally.

The campaign offers $250 airline vouchers to the first 10,000 people to book a minimum 2-night stay in a participating hotel in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville or Memphis.

McNally released a statement Tuesday saying he finds it disturbing that the promotion is limited to the state's major cities.

Read his full statement below:

"I was not briefed on the details of the promotion prior to launch. The mission of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development is to motivate travel to and within Tennessee. While the tourism industry in our major cities was hard hit during the COVID crisis, it has bounced back in record time. Under the circumstances, I would have preferred a more traditional approach to tourism development rather than direct transfers of Tennessee taxpayer money to mostly out-of-state recipients. It is especially troubling that the promotion is limited to our major cities. At least two of those cities exacerbated the economic crisis by instituting overly aggressive lockdown policies. It makes little sense to limit the promotion to those cities when our rural areas were hit as hard, if not harder, by the economic crisis than those cities. I will be asking the administration and the Department of Tourist Development to provide more detail to the legislature about such initiatives during the budget process in the future."

The Tennessee Democratic Party and other state lawmakers have also expressed their disappointment and concern over the promotion.

The party shared a photoshopped image on social media of the governor in a Hawaiian shirt with text saying "Governor Lee is spending our tax dollars buying plane tickets for tourists right after canceling half a billion in unemployment benefits."

State Representative Gloria Johnson voiced her opposition on social media, saying "I’m going to hope you didn’t know he cut the unemployment lifeline to so many TN families who have no idea how they will eat or pay rent after 7/3/21 while giving money to those outside our state. Before he hoodwinks you again, feel free to call me first, 865-660-9800."