Former Fox executive Preston Padden on Monday again urged the Senate Commerce Committee to confirm longtime consumer advocate and net neutrality proponent Gigi Sohn to the Federal Communications Commission.
“I fear that this esteemed Committee, like Ms. Sohn, is in danger of falling victim to the worst, and most cynical and baseless smear campaign ever waged against a nominee to serve on the FCC,” Padden said in a letter to lawmakers. “Ms. Sohn’s only sin is that she roots for the underdog and for consumers.”
Padden, who worked at Fox in the 1990s, added that Sohn helped the company obtain waivers of FCC rules, which Fox needed in order to launch Fox Broadcasting Company as the fourth over-the-air network.
“I worked for Rupert Murdoch for seven years and secured for him waivers of FCC Rules that stood in the way of the launch of Fox Broadcasting Company,” Padden wrote.
He added that he recently reminded Murdoch that Sohn “saw the pro-consumer benefits of a fourth network,” and was “was very helpful to our efforts to fend off fierce lobbying attacks from the three established networks.”
The letter marks the second time Padden has urged the Senate Commerce Committee to confirm Sohn, who was initially nominated to the FCC in October of 2021.
Earlier this month, President Joe Biden renominated Sohn to serve on the agency, which is deadlocked with two Republicans and two Democrats. That political gridlock has prevented FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel from moving forward with attempts to restore the Obama-era net neutrality rules, which prohibited broadband carriers from blocking or throttling traffic and from charging higher fees for prioritized delivery.
Last year, the Senate Commerce Committee voted 14-14 to advance Sohn's nomination; the full Senate didn't hold a confirmation vote.
Sohn's supporters, including Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), are calling for her speedy confirmation.
“The work of the Commission -- from net neutrality to closing the digital divide -- is too important for this nomination to be delayed any further,” Markey stated Friday.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposes Sohn's confirmation, arguing that she supports “harmful” policies -- including ones that would pave the way for net neutrality rules.
Last Thursday, the conservative outlet Daily Mail posted a story that obviously aimed to smear Sohn by suggesting there was something scandalous about her membership on the board of the respected digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has sued to invalidate laws that restrict speech online -- including a 2017 law that allows state prosecutors to bring charges against websites that facilitate prostitution. (Among other arguments, the Electronic Frontier Foundation says the law is so broad that it could result in prosecution of sites that provide health-related information or safety tips for sex workers.)
The Daily Mail described Sohn's involvement with the Electronic Frontier Foundation by saying she “is a proud member of a nonprofit that wants to uphold sex work online.”
The piece included photos of Sohn and a sex worker.
Padden called attention to that article, describing it as “tabloid trash.”
“The press stories ginned up by Ms. Sohn’s opponents are beneath scurrilous and are beneath the dignity of this Committee,” he wrote to lawmakers. “For example, one Daily Mail online story (not a Murdoch publication) began with a picture of Ms. Sohn juxtaposed next to a salacious picture of a sex worker with whom Ms. Sohn has absolutely no connection. This is “Tabloid Trash” at its worst.”