The UCC’s Media Justice Ministry and other advocates responded with alarm—and sadness—when Gigi Sohn, President Biden’s nominee for a seat on the Federal Communications Commission, asked that her nomination be withdrawn after more than 16 months of attacks on her policy positions and personal life.
In 2018, UCC Media Justice recognized Sohn with its annual Everett C. Parker Award for more than 30 years of work in support of the public interest in media policy. The award honors the life of the Rev. Everett C. Parker, the founder of the UCC’s Office of Communication Inc., now UCC Media Justice. Over the months that the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee declined to vote on Sohn’s nomination, UCC Media Justice worked with hundreds of other advocacy organizations to support her.
In a statement, Sohn said that when she accepted the nomination, “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. 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.”
Sohn would have been the commission’s first openly gay member. Some of the attacks she endured were aimed at her sexual orientation.
Cheryl Leanza, public policy adviser for UCC Media Justice, said Sohn’s withdrawal would be an “immeasurable” loss to the nation. The UCC “counts on the FCC to pursue equitable prices for communicating with incarcerated and detained people; affordable, accessible broadband for low-income people; diverse and competitive television and media that give voice to the full breadth of voices in our communities; open and neutral internet networks that do not privilege commercial content over faith-based or other non-commercial content; and a robust protection of civil rights in new technologies and old.” All of those objectives, she added, “are now in jeopardy.”
Noting that Sohn had been recognized by the UCC five years ago, Leanza said, “We consider her to be among the best and the brightest working to ensure that our communications networks serve the public good.”
Because of the Senate’s failure to act on Sohn’s nomination, the agency has been unable to break a deadlock since the beginning of the Biden Administration. Sohn and Leanza both called on the Biden administration to move quickly to nominate a new individual who was committed to the public interest.