Conservatives rejoice after key Biden nominee withdraws: ‘Enormous victory for free speech’
Republicans and conservatives celebrated Tuesday after Gigi Sohn, President Biden’s embattled pick for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), announced she had requested the White House withdraw her nomination.
Sohn’s decision came hours after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he would join all Republicans in voting against her nomination, a significant blow to her chances of receiving enough votes to be confirmed to the position. However, Sohn — who has been heavily criticized by Republican lawmakers, and a wide range of business and law enforcement groups for her past statements and positions — blamed a “dark money” political campaign.
“When I accepted his nomination over sixteen months ago, I could not have imagined that legions of cable and media industry lobbyists, their bought-and-paid-for surrogates, and dark money political groups with bottomless pockets would distort my over 30-year history as a consumer advocate into an absurd caricature of blatant lies,” Sohn told The Washington Post in a statement.
“The unrelenting, dishonest and cruel attacks on my character and my career as an advocate for the public interest have taken an enormous toll on me and my family,” she added.
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White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday that Sohn’s withdrawal was “clearly unfortunate” and that the White House was “sad to see this happen.”
But Sohn’s withdrawal was cheered by Republicans and conservatives alike who had characterized her as an extreme and partisan selection for the powerful five-person FCC.
“I think this was the right move. It’s unfortunate it took them so long to get there, but in our view long overdue,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., a senior member and former chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, told Fox News Digital in an interview Tuesday.
“Biden talked early on in his administration about how he wanted to change the tone and become more bipartisan,” he continued. “Then he started sending out these shrill partisan nominees to key agencies. She would have been on the FCC, particularly with all the stuff they’ve got in front of them right now — she had lots of issues in the confirmation hearings that raise questions about her character, her judgment. So, this was a long overdue outcome.”
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Thune added that he preferred for the FCC to remain deadlocked with a 2-2 split rather than for Democrats to take majority control of the commission with someone like Sohn. He also said he hoped the failure of Sohn’s nomination would lead to Biden putting forward a better nominee who could get bipartisan support.
“The worst thing he could do now is send somebody up that is his second-worst pick,” Thune told Fox News Digital. “They should go back to the drawing board and find a consensus person who, not only is credible and qualified for the job, but will bring the impartiality that I think a position on that very important commission requires.”
“You can’t come in there with an ax to grind and Sohn clearly had that,” he said. “And that came across, again, not just to Republicans on the committee, but also to Democrats.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the current ranking member of the Commerce Committee and another fierce opponent of Sohn’s nomination, said the withdrawal was “a major victory.”
“The withdrawal of Ms. Sohn’s nomination is 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,” Cruz said in a statement.
“The FCC is not a place for partisan activists; free speech is too important,” he continued. “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.”
Cruz’s special advisor for communications, Steve Guest, had some fun with the announcement by tweeting out a picture of Cruz wearing sunglasses while smoking a cigar, along with multiple “flackback” clips of Cruz slamming Sohn during confirmation hearings.
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American Commitment president Phil Kerpen praised Cruz’s role in helping force Sohn to withdraw, tweeting, “It was cops and conservatives who stopped Sohn, with Ted Cruz our leader.”
“The FCC needs an independent non-partisan nominee and that wasn’t Gigi Sohn. She exposed herself, again and again, to be a radical, extremist, hyper-partisan, with serious ethical questions looming over her nomination,” said Thomas Jones, the president of conservative group American Accountability Foundation (AAF).
The AAF spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on an ad campaign to oppose Sohn’s nomination over the last year and a half.
“Biden’s FCC commissioner nominee Gigi Sohn has withdrawn her nomination,” Heritage Action tweeted. “This is a WIN for grassroots Americans and a result of efforts by Heritage Action and other groups who signed a letter opposing Sohn’s nomination.”
Jon Schweppe, the policy director for the American Principles Project, similarly declared victory.
“This was a really long fight. And we won,” he tweeted. “Gigi Sohn will not serve on the FCC. Her nomination has been withdrawn.”
Schweppe added that it was an “enormous victory for free speech.”
And the National Republican Senate Committee celebrated that Biden and Senate Democrats were forced to “wave the white flag on their radical FCC nominee Gigi Sohn.”
Alec Sears, a social media and digital strategist at the Republican National Committee, tweeted, “The Zodiac strikes again,” playing off the Cruz-Zodiac killer meme.
Biden first selected Sohn to fill a vacant seat on the FCC in October 2021, but her nomination failed to advance past the Senate Commerce Committee.
The president then nominated her for a second time in January.
Over the last month, Sohn has faced criticism for her anti-police views, once sharing a tweet saying former President Trump was a “raggedy white supremacist president” and sitting on the board of an organization opposed to anti-sex trafficking laws.
Additionally, Sohn has been a vocal proponent of net neutrality. The Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business industry group, has warned of Sohn’s “extreme views” and reiterated its call for the Senate to reject her nomination in January.
Sohn’s failure to receive enough support in the Senate means the FCC will remain at a 2-2 deadlock for the foreseeable future.