GOP senators oppose Biden's FCC nominee over past criticism of Fox News

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Gigi Sohn told the Senate commerce committee that her private views would have 'no bearing on any proceeding that Fox would be involved in.'

Senate Republicans are attacking President Joe Biden's nominee to serve on the Federal Communications Commission over her past criticism of Fox News. But the commission does not actually even regulate cable television content.

And none of them objected when former President Donald Trump repeatedly trashed the network for not doing enough to get him reelected.

In a Wednesday appearance on Fox News, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz blasted Gigi Sohn for her views on the network.

"She hates Fox News," he complained. "She has been vocal and partisan a long time. She's described Fox News — some of the quotes that she tweeted out — she's described Fox News as, 'I believe Fox News has had the most negative impact on our democracy. It's state-sponsored propaganda.'"

At a Senate commerce committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan pointed to the 2020 tweet Cruz had referred to, telling Sohn, "I don't see how you can be unbiased."

"Whether you're a fan of Fox News or not," Florida Sen. Rick Scott said, "I think it's disturbing that somebody nominated to the Federal Communications Commission has such a negative opinion of one network or another."

Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota called Sohn "not fit to serve at the FCC," tweeting, "She won't be an impartial commissioner or review matters in a fair & neutral way."

Sohn, a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and a longtime public advocate for open communications networks, is Biden's nominee to fill one of five seats on the FCC. If confirmed, she would give Democrats a 3-2 majority on the commission, which regulates television and radio and enforces communications laws.

The FCC oversees some aspects of cable broadcasting, such as technical requirements and records retention, but does not regulate its content. Thus Sohn would have absolutely no role in overseeing Fox News' content.

The network has spent the past several months broadcasting false attacks on Sohn, including a November 2021 broadcast of "Fox & Friends" in which the hosts charged that she would "turn the FCC into the CCP [Chinese Communist Party]" and "pull the broadcast license of this network."

At Wednesday's hearing, Sohn pushed back against "unrelenting, unfair and outright false" attacks. She said, "Whatever I may have said as a public advocate will have no bearing on how I look at the record and make decisions." She noted that her tweets "came in the discussion of Big Tech and whether they should be responsible for disinformation, and that was said as a public advocate and a private citizen and has no bearing on any proceeding that Fox would be involved in."

Sohn's original assessment of Fox News is not unfounded: The network, which once claimed to be "fair and balanced" but dropped that pretense once Donald Trump became president, has long pushed a right-wing pro-Republican agenda. During the Trump years, the network gave him glowing coverage, its shows provided him with hours of free airtime, and many of its hosts and contributors served as unpaid advisers to the president — or even joined his administration.

Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, told Vox in March 2019 that "because of the way Trump has begun to interact with certain programs and because of the way Fox has allowed some of its personnel to interact with the administration, there are parts of Fox News that are now a propaganda arm of the government."

And if criticism of Fox News were a disqualifier, the GOP senators who are now questioning Sohn's fitness for office would have to rethink their vocal support for Trump.

Despite the network's role in getting him elected and helping him communicate with his base, the former president has frequently attacked Fox News for not being biased enough in his favor.

In August 2019, after the network interviewed a Democratic Party official, he tweeted, "The New @FoxNews is letting millions of GREAT people down! We have to start looking for a new News Outlet. Fox isn't working for us anymore."

"Only pro Trump Fox shows do well. Rest are not," he wrote that December.

In May 2020, he complained, "Many any will disagree, but @FoxNews is doing nothing to help Republicans, and me, get re-elected on November 3rd. Sure, there are some truly GREAT people on Fox, but you also have some real 'garbage' littered all over the network, people like Dummy Juan Williams, Schumerite Chris…Hahn, Richard Goodstein, Donna Brazile, Niel [sic] Cavuto, and many others. ... Fox WAS Great!"

That November, he blamed the network for his landslide defeat. "They forgot the Golden Goose. The biggest difference between the 2016 Election, and 2020, was @FoxNews!"

Days later, he retweeted actor Randy Quaid's comment "FOX IS DEAD TO ME."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.