Failure to Stand Up to Industry-Orchestrated Smears Cost FCC and the Nation a True Public Servant
WASHINGTON – Today Gigi Sohn, longtime public-interest advocate and former Federal Communications Commission official, withdrew her name from consideration for the long-vacant commissioner’s seat at the agency after her nomination had been held up for nearly 500 days.
The move follows a relentless smear campaign leveled against the nominee by a phalanx of deep-pocketed telecom lobbyists working with far-right political operatives. These powerful entities have sought to deadlock the FCC at 2–2 and prevent a majority vote on a number of critical issues. This cadre of Sohn opponents falsely portrayed the nominee as divisive, even though her years of experience tell a different story — about a highly regarded expert who has reached across political divides to support communications policies that benefit the general public.
More than 400 groups and individuals — including organizations from across the political spectrum, businesses, consumer advocates, civil-rights organizations, educational groups, state and local elected officials, and community groups — have submitted or signed letters of support for Sohn.
Free Press President and Co-CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:
“After years of waiting in limbo, Gigi Sohn won’t make it to the FCC — and that’s a huge loss for the country. They’re probably celebrating at Comcast and Fox today, and their lobbyists deserve most of the credit for concocting lies to derail her nomination. Republicans who willfully spread those lies must be thrilled, too. But they’re not the only ones to blame: The failure of Democratic leaders to stand up to industry-orchestrated smears cost the agency — and the nation — a true public servant.
“This nomination process was bungled almost from the start, with a long wait in selecting the nominee in the first place, three different confirmation hearings, and endless excuses for why various senators weren’t ready to vote. All this dithering and delay allowed the industry to refuel their attack machine, bankroll front groups and deploy legions of lobbyists against Sohn.
“Unfortunately, the abject failure of Democratic leaders to stand up and advocate for their own nominee means that these companies will likely only double-down on the kinds of deceitful and dirty tactics they deployed against Sohn. What other lessons could they draw from how easily senators folded in the face of easily fact-checked lies and slanders — including by their former colleagues who are now on the corporate payroll.
“We’re angry about how Sohn was treated, and we’re disturbed that Democratic leaders by and large failed to speak out against the lies, bigotry and innuendo surrounding her nomination. But the answer here is not going back to the way things used to be at the FCC, when the industry got to hand-pick commissioners. Going backward would be a terrible mistake.
“There will be temptation in the weeks ahead to put forward an industry-friendly nominee to avoid a larger political fight. That’s how the agency has worked in the past. But the public — now more than ever — needs an independent voice at this crucial agency, one who won’t cave to the industries they are supposed to regulate. Though Gigi Sohn deserved much, much better, we can only hope this moment will finally serve as a wake-up call to the Biden administration and the Democratic Party.”