A Dirty Campaign Defeated Gigi Sohn. We Can't Let it Happen Again.
Mar 08, 2023

"They're celebrating today at Comcast and Fox, where their lobbyists deserve most of the credit for concocting lies to derail Sohn's nomination. They falsely portrayed her as radical and divisive, even though her years of experience tell a different storyβ€”about a highly regarded expert who has reached across political divides to support communications policies that help people.

Republicans who willfully spread those lies are thrilled, too. Their campaign of vile dog whistles, homophobic innuendo and false outrage worked. In fact, it was too easy.

But they're not the only ones to blame: The failure of Democratic leaders to defend their nominee cost the agencyβ€”and the nationβ€”a true public servant. Their missteps and unforced errors were many.
Senate leaders made Sohn endure an unprecedented three confirmation hearings, giving the right-wing noise machine numerous opportunities to badger her while extracting zero concessions from the other side. Despite her composure in the hot seat, this stage let Sohn's opponents test out numerous lines of attack. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) got endless opportunities to fulminate about her random retweets, while Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) cosplayed as a culture warrior from his new perch on the Commerce Committee.

While the GOP ganged up on her, most Democrats sat back, either using their time on the dais to ask questions about their home states or repeat industry-written talking points. (Notable and laudable exceptions who came to Sohn's defense include Sens. Ed Markey and Tammy Baldwin.)

Unfortunately, the failure of more Democratic senators to advocate for their own nominee means that companies like Comcast and Fox will likely only double-down in the future 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? And what potential FCC nominee would want to subject themselves to this kind of character assassination?
The next test is already here. The Biden administration needs to come up with a new nominee to the FCC, and it may be tempted to nominate an industry-friendly choiceβ€”someone who can "get through" and avoid a larger political fight. We must oppose and reject any return to business as usual that furthers industry capture of the FCC.

Instead, we need to demand an independent candidate with public-interest bona fides and a clear commitment to racial justice and civil rights. They must show they're willing to stand up to lies. They must be unequivocal in their support for restoring the FCC's authority, and making sure that the internet is open, affordable, available, and reliable for everyone. They must demonstrate a commitment to engaging the public, not just meeting with lobbyists."...

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