Gigi Sohn — President Biden’s controversial pick for a seat on the Federal Communications Commission — withdrew on Tuesday hours after Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said he would oppose her confirmation.
Manchin cited Sohn’s “years of partisan activism, inflammatory statements online and work with far-left groups” for refusing to back her to fill the open spot on the five-member FCC.
The progressive telecom lawyer had previously suggested that the FCC should examine whether right-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group was “qualified” for a broadcast license and retweeted posts that called for defunding the police.
Sohn also faced sharp pushback from Republican lawmakers who argued she has a history of anti-conservative bias.
The FCC’s five-member committee is currently deadlocked with two Democrats and two Republicans. Sohn’s candidacy has stalled since she was first nominated by Biden for the post in October 2021.
“The FCC deadlock, now over two years long, will remain so for a long time,” Sohn said in a statement. “Unfortunately the American people are the real losers here. As someone who has advocated for my entire career for affordable, accessible broadband for every American, it is ironic that the 2-2 FCC will remain sidelined at the most consequential opportunity for broadband in our lifetimes.”
Sohn could not afford to lose Democratic backers in the Senate, where the party clings to a slim 51-49 majority. Aside from Manchin, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) had also raised concerns about Sohn.
Manchin (D-W.Va.) said the FCC needed a commissioner 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.”
Sohn’s exit marks another setback for the Biden administration as it attempts to pursue sweeping internet-related reforms, including a reinstatement of “net neutrality” rules that were unwound under former President Donald Trump.
Sohn’s third confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee last month featured a notable clash with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who criticized her for making a series of donations to sitting Democratic senators while her nomination was pending.
“Both during this process and in her previous positions, she has shown herself to be an extreme partisan who lacks the impartiality and candor necessary to serve in a leadership position at a powerful independent regulatory agency,” Cruz said at the time.
Sohn said her decision to withdraw followed “unrelenting, dishonest and cruel attacks” by lobbyists intent on blocking her confirmation.
“It is a sad day for our country and our democracy when dominant industries, with assistance from unlimited dark money, get to choose their regulators,” Sohn said in a statement to the Washington Post. “And with the help of their friends in the Senate, the powerful cable and media companies have done just that.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who confirmed Sohn’s exit, did not have “updates to share” about potential replacement candidates.
“We appreciate Gigi Sohn’s candidacy for this important role,” Jean-Pierre said during her Tuesday press briefing. “She would have brought tremendous intellect and experience, which is why the president nominated her in the first place.”
With Post wires