Extreme FCC Nominee Gigi Sohn Withdraws Due to Bipartisan Opposition
Left-wing attorney Gigi Sohn withdrew her candidacy to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday after a protracted nomination battle turned into bipartisan opposition. President Biden nominated Sohn to serve on the commission in October 2021 and renominated her this year after the first nomination expired. On Thursday, Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) indicated he would oppose her nomination, ending her chances of gaining approval during this Congress.
“Especially now, the FCC must remain above the toxic partisanship that Americans are sick and tired of, and Ms. Sohn has clearly shown she is not the person to do that,” said Manchin. “She has now had three controversial Senate Commerce Committee hearings. Last Congress, she was reported out of Committee on a 14-14 party-line split — the first time an FCC nominee has not been reported favorably by the Committee.”
In a withdrawal letter given to The Washington Post, Sohn wrote bitterly,
“When I accepted his nomination over sixteen months ago, I could not have imagined that legions of cable and media industry lobbyists, their bought-and-paid-for surrogates, and dark money political groups with bottomless pockets would distort my over 30-year history as a consumer advocate into an absurd caricature of blatant lies. The unrelenting, dishonest and cruel attacks on my character and my career as an advocate for the public interest have taken an enormous toll on me and my family.”
However, Sohn’s record fed plenty of legitimate ammunition to her critics. She sat on the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which opposed bipartisan anti-sex trafficking legislation on the grounds that it would “lead to censorship and would harm online-based prostitutes.” Sohn was cofounder and CEO of Public Knowledge, a left-wing advocacy group that successfully urged cable and satellite providers to cancel One America News. She also worked as the director of Locast, an app that violated copyright protections by retransmitting broadcast signals of major stations without their permission until in 2021 a federal judge shut it down and ordered it to pay $32 million in damages. Sohn later pledged to recuse herself from TV broadcasting and retransmission issues.
Beyond her resume, Sohn has espoused a host of extreme political views that critics say call into question her ability to act as a neutral arbiter. She advocates for “net neutrality,” which would dramatically increase government interference in communications, and she claimed in 2020 that Facebook and Twitter didn’t have a censorship problem. She has attacked law enforcement and endorsed defunding the police. ACLJ attorney Craig Parshall warned on “Washington Watch” last year that Sohn “seems to have a real appetite for censorship. She wouldn’t call it that. She’d simply say that [it’s] ‘eradicating dangerous misinformation’ about political, social, and religious issues that foment the population. Well, no matter what you call it, it is a violent suppression of free speech.”
Sohn’s political rhetoric often turns to personal insults and invectives. Just a few of the phrases she has invented or retweeted for particular political targets include “state-sponsored propaganda” (Fox News), “armed goons in riot gear with tear gas” (police officers), “raggedy white supremacist president” (Donald Trump), and “angry white man” (Justice Brett Kavanaugh).
The FCC is an independent federal agency with immense power to regulate all sorts of communications — radio, TV, electronic, satellite, cable — and controls such matters as broadband access, fair competition, and radio frequency use. For the past two years, the commission has maintained a 2-2 partisan split. If Sohn’s nomination had been approved, her presence would have given Democrats a 3-2 advantage on the commission and consequently the power to implement an extreme, left-wing agenda. President Biden has the power to appoint a chair for the committee and could have appointed Sohn as chairwoman of the committee, giving her even more power to shape federal communications policy according to her ideology.
For a glimpse into what the FCC could have become had Sohn’s nomination been approved, one need look no further than the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FCC and FTC are both independent federal agencies with broad regulatory authority over their respective jurisdictions. Both are supposed to maintain a 3-2 partisan balance, with the president appointing one commissioner as chair, and they have worked that way for decades.
In 2021, the Senate approved progressive Biden nominee Lina Khan as an FTC commissioner, and Biden promptly made her the chair. Since then, Khan has not only used her authority to implement a radical, left-wing agenda over the objections of other commissioners, but has abused her power to undermine due process so much that both Republican commissioners have resigned in disgust.
The pattern of progressive Biden nominees to independent commissions seeking to dramatically alter policy on their own authority is not confined to the FCC and FTC. In January, Consumer Product Safety Commissioner (CPSC) Richard Trumka, Jr., also nominated by President Biden, briefly floated a proposal to ban gas stoves. Democrats currently hold a 3-1 majority on the CPSC. The broad pattern is that of ideological Marxists gaining power in institutions for which they have no respect and acting accordingly.
In the case of Gigi Sohn, critics worried that someone who openly advocated for the censorship of free speech, and who kept a long list of political enemies, could not responsibly wield authority in an institution with broad oversight to regulate speech.
“Gigi Sohn’s decision to withdraw from consideration to be an FCC Commissioner is a positive development for free speech,” Family Research Council’s coalitions senior fellow Chris Gacek told The Washington Stand. “Whatever one thinks of Fox News, pro or con, it would not be appropriate for an FCC Commissioner to have an open political vendetta against FOX News, as she did and does.”
Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.