Multiple media outlets are attempting to suggest Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is guilty of hypocrisy over a photo from his 1977 high school yearbook.
Lee is set to sign a bill that would outlaw drag shows from certain public areas that can be exposed to children, making a first offense a misdemeanor and the second offense a felony.
But a photo from the 1977 Franklin High yearbook surfaced on social media showing Lee wearing a wig, cheerleader uniform and a pearl necklace alongside girls wearing men’s suits.
The photo is captioned “Hard Luck Woman.”
Tennessee Democrat Christopher Hale was among the critics who shared the image online, tweeting, “Tennessee Governor Bill Lee is set to sign a bill that bans and criminalizes drag across the Volunteer State. Under this law, Governor Lee himself would face prosecution and jail time for his decision to dress up as a ‘hard luck woman’ in high school. Nice legs though!
Critics in the press tried to claim the governor’s current stance is the opposite of his actions as a young student.
The Tennessean tried lumping the two together in its headline, “Gov. Bill Lee will sign drag bill, reacts to yearbook photo showing him dressed as a woman.”
NBC News went even further with its story, “Tennessee governor appears to have dressed in drag, an art form he wants to restrict.”
One Nashville drag performer called it “hypocritical,” telling NBC News, “He’s saying: ‘It’s OK for straight people to do it, but not the gay community… That’s the message he’s delivering to the people.”
The NBC News report, though, concedes, “While the event photographed in the yearbook would meet most definitions of ‘drag,’ it would not necessarily be illegal under Tennessee’s newly passed drag bill, which specifically bans ‘male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest’ from performing in public or in front of children.”
On Tuesday, The Washington Post ran the headline, “Tenn. governor to restrict drag shows as photo appears to show him in drag.”
The Guardian similarly published, “Tennessee governor to ban drag shows – despite photo of him dressed in drag.”
“Tennessee’s governor, Bill Lee, is facing accusations of hypocrisy after a photo of him dressed in drag went viral days after the politician confirmed that he would sign legislation criminalizing drag performances,” the Guardian wrote.
Other headlines include the Daily Beast’s “Drag-Banning Tennessee Guv Shrugs Off Old Drag Pic as a ‘Lighthearted Tradition’” and HuffPost’s “Tennessee Governor Expected To Sign Drag Ban Apparently Once Wore Drag In Yearbook Photo.”
Lee blasted the notion that the legislation and the yearbook photo are linked, calling a question at a press conference Monday “ridiculous.”
“Conflating something like that to sexualized entertainment in front of children?” Lee exclaimed.
A spokesperson for Lee also stated, “The bill specifically protects children from obscene, sexualized entertainment, and any attempt to conflate this serious issue with lighthearted school traditions is dishonest and disrespectful to Tennessee families.”