1 of 2 | Gigi Sohn withdrew her candidacy for FCC commissioner on Tuesday after unrelenting and vocal opposition from Republicans and conservative news sites. File Photo by Susan Walsh/UPI | License Photo
March 7 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden's pick for the next FCC commissioner, Gigi Sohn, is withdrawing her candidacy after unrelenting and vocal opposition from Republicans that even some of her critics called over the line.
Sohn, who would have been the first openly gay commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, alleged that "powerful cable and media companies" have influenced the selection of federal regulators, The Washington Post reports.
"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. "With the help of their friends in the Senate, the powerful cable and media companies have done just that."
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., was among the loudest critics of Sohn on Tuesday, shortly before the decision was announced. In a statement, Manchin said Sohn had "three controversial Senate Commerce Committee hearings" that ended split 14-14 along party lines. Manchin announced he would vote against Sohn.
"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," Manchin said.
Sohn was nominated in October 2021, to succeed Ajit Varadaraj Pai to serve a five-year term as commissioner. She served as counselor to FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler from 2013 to 2016, and was appointed by former President Bill Clinton as a member of the Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters in 1997.
But she also has been the recent target for critical -- and misleading -- reports from conservative news sites such as Fox News and The Daily Mail's website, DailyMail.com. Both organizations have tried to link Sohn to topics such as sex trafficing and sadomasochism. Those reports also have tried to tie Sohn to issues of pedophilia because of her membership on the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a respected nonprofit group that advocates for online privacy and free expression online, and which has opposed sex-trafficking legislative proposals on free speech grounds.
Gary Shapiro, president of the pro-business lobbyist group Consumer Technology Association, supported her nomination.
"There's a little homophobia going on here. It's whispered around in the Senate. And that's a shame," he told NBC. "I like to think as a country we're past that, but apparently we're not. This smear campaign, it's been two years already."
Sohn said the largely partisan decision to block her appointment as FCC chair will result in more expensive broadband coverage and a lack of competition.
"Unfortunately, the American people are the real losers here. The FCC deadlock, now over two years long, will remain so for a long time," Sohn's statement reads.
"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."
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said there are no updates on future candidates in the place of Sohn during a press briefing on Tuesday.
"We appreciate Gigi Sohn's candidacy for this important role. She would have brought tremendous intellect and experience, which is why the president nominated her in the first place," Jean-Pierre said.
This article has been updated to correct the context of remarks from Gary Shapiro.