Sohn Advocates Decry ‘Hate-fueled' Campaign Against FCC Nominee

(Image credit: C-SPAN)

WASHINGTON—Politicians and others who spend most of their time on Capitol Hill reacted in a predictable manner to FCC commissioner nominee Gigi Sohn’s withdrawal from consideration yesterday after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced his opposition. 

Opponents labeled her an “activist,” while advocates lambasted the opposition’s “hate-fueled” campaign against Sohn, who, if confirmed, would have been the FCC’s first openly gay commissioner. Sohn was first nominated by President Biden in October 2021.

Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) expressed her disappointment at Sohn’s decision. 

"Throughout the past 16 months, Ms. Sohn has demonstrated her expertise in telecommunications law, deep experience and commitment to ensuring that every American has access to affordable broadband regardless of where they live," she said. “More importantly, I commend her for the integrity and fortitude she displayed in the face of a coordinated, hate-fueled campaign to malign and distort her character and record. I thank Ms. Sohn for her willingness to serve and her continued efforts to bridge the digital divide in America.” 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a vocal opponent of Sohn’s nomination called her withdrawal “a major victory, and represents a strong bipartisan agreement that we need a fair and impartial candidate who can receive the support needed for confirmation.”

“The FCC is not a place for partisan activists; free speech is too important,” Cruz added. “Now, it’s time for the Biden administration to put forth a nominee who can be confirmed by the full Senate and is committed to serving as an even-handed and truly independent regulator.”

Michael Copps, special adviser to Common Cause and a former FCC chairman, was highly critical of how Sohn’s nomination was handled. 

“Senate treatment of this nomination has been, from beginning to end, sad, shoddy, and shameful, and its treatment of Ms. Sohn a despicable dereliction of duty and honor," Copps said. "A win for big-spending special interests, to be sure, but a tragic loss for the common good."

Eric Greer, director of Fight for the Future, which advocates for network-neutrality, which Sohn also supports, said opposition to her nomination was more than just about policy differences.  

“Let’s be perfectly clear: Democrats promised to restore net neutrality and FCC oversight of telecom monopolies, and instead they caved to corporate interests and homophobic smears,” he said. “The same telecom companies that were caught red handed funding a flood of fraudulent comments to the FCC and paying for misleading robocalls to senior citizens to kill net neutrality rules now will seemingly get to pick their own regulator, just as they did with Ajit Pai. 

"Democrats’ failure to stand up to the telecom industry and condemn the homophobic smears targeting Sohn will have devastating effects for human rights, free expression, and public safety,” he added. “Even if the White House names a new nominee, there may not be enough time for the FCC to move forward with key priorities like restoring net neutrality and broadband privacy rules. By allowing Sohn’s nomination to be undermined by disingenuous attacks and refusing to condemn them, the Biden administration and Senate Democrats have set a terrible precedent for future public interest nominees and LGBTQ nominees." 

For its part, the White House said Sohn "would have brought tremendous intellect and experience, which is why the president nominated her in the first place."

"We also appreciated her dedication to public service, her talent and her years of work as one of the nation’s leading public advocates on behalf of American consumers and competition," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (, the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.