President Biden’s nominee to lead the Federal Communications Commission withdrew her name from consideration Tuesday, the White House confirmed, forcing Democrats to start over in their bid to revive “net neutrality” rules.
Gigi Sohn, first nominated in October 2021, pulled out of consideration after vocal opposition to her nomination from Senate Republicans who said she was a far-left partisan whose social media posts revealed her radical views.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted Ms. Sohn was a good pick for the job.
“We appreciate Gigi Sohn‘s candidacy for this important role,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said. “She 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.”
The announcement came after Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia said he would vote against her nomination. He said the FCC needs a leader who would “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.”
Ms. Sohn is a former aide to then-FCC Chair Tom Wheeler. With her withdrawal, the telecom regulator remains at an impasse with two Democratic and two Republican appointees.
Republican senators said Ms. Sohn would have run the FCC with a heavy hand to censor conservative viewpoints.
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, has called her nomination “a threat to free speech everywhere” and said she is a “radical, left-wing partisan.”
“Having someone like her in charge of overseeing our airwaves is incredibly dangerous,” he said.
Ms. Sohn said it was “a sad day for our country and our democracy when dominant industries, with assistance from unlimited dark money, get to choose their regulators.”
“With the help of their friends in the Senate, the powerful cable and media companies have done just that,” she told The Washington Post.
Since the start of the Biden administration, Democrats have been unable to gain a majority of the five-member FCC, thwarting the party’s goal of restoring “net neutrality” rules revoked under former President Donald Trump. The policy aims to bar internet service providers from slowing traffic or offering faster service for higher prices.
Mr. Cruz grilled Ms. Sohn at one of her confirmation hearings over her donations to Democratic causes. She defended what she termed “relatively small” gifts as donations from “a citizen who just wanted to participate in the democratic process.”
Republican lawmakers who fought Ms. Sohn‘s nomination said she would impose burdensome regulation, censorship of conservatives, and would push through net neutrality.
Ms. Sohn has worked as a progressive broadband policy advocate.
Republicans criticized her for tweets critical of law enforcement in the U.S. and for blaming Republicans for blocking access to voting booths in certain regions.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, had vowed to stop her nomination, saying Ms. Sohn held “radical views.”
Sen. Eric Schmitt, Missouri Republican, called her withdrawal “great news.”
“Gigi Sohn is not only beholden to some of the largest Big Tech companies in the world, but her past statements prove that she’s nothing more than a partisan that doesn’t belong anywhere near an agency as critical as the FCC,” he said.
FreedomWorks, a limited government advocacy group, hailed the withdrawal of Ms. Sohn‘s nomination.
“Gigi Sohn should never have been nominated to the FCC in the first place,” said Cesar Ybarra, FreedomWorks vice president of policy. “Her openly partisan outlook and past comments disqualify her from commanding a position that would allow her to regulate Americans’ freedom of speech. After her third confirmation hearing, we are glad to see that she finally had the wherewithal to withdraw her name from consideration herself.”