Hispanic Groups Push Biden To Dump Progressive FCC Nominee

Democratic allies worry Gigi Sohn could be 'Hispanic-racist'

Gigi Sohn / Getty Images
January 3, 2022

A coalition of Hispanic groups is pushing President Joe Biden to withdraw his latest nominee to the Federal Communications Commission.

The president renominated Gigi Sohn Monday after her nomination died in Congress late last year. Hispanic groups claim that Sohn's relationships with big tech companies and alliance with a right-wing television network render her unfit for the job.

"I don't know if she will be Hispanic-racist," said Jose Marquez-Leon, national president of the Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association. "That's a big worry." The association is one of several groups that has criticized Biden for not nominating a Hispanic to the FCC.

Democrats have criticized the low number of Hispanics in senior administration roles. In November, four Hispanic Senate Democrats sent a letter to Biden, urging him to "improve Latino representation" at the White House. Democratic senators also have complained about insufficient Asian-American representation in Biden's cabinet.

The FCC is currently gridlocked with two members from each party. As the fifth and final member, Sohn would serve as the tiebreaker on major debates. Republicans have slammed Sohn for past statements criticizing Fox News. But her progressive track record has not won her favor with liberal groups.

Marquez-Leon says he is concerned with One America News Network president Charles Herring's endorsement of Sohn. "That's one of those stations that basically broadcast nothing but anti-Hispanic messages," Marquez-Leon tells the Washington Free Beacon, emphasizing that Sohn has touted OANN's endorsement. "We need someone [on the FCC] who's not biased at all."

Marquez-Leon worries that Sohn will not do enough to combat the rise of Spanish-language "disinformation" and "news distortion." Democrats have begun sounding the alarm on the issue, with Rep. Joaquin Castro (D., Texas) calling on the FCC to investigate the "increase in disinformation on Spanish-language radio and other media." Other Democrats have alleged there is a coordinated radio campaign designed to smear Vice President Kamala Harris in Hispanic communities.

Other groups claim Sohn is the wrong choice to tackle the challenges facing Hispanic media. The League of United Latin American Citizens says Sohn has supported big tech companies "in ways that have hindered small, independent Latino-owned media companies and has jeopardized Latino content creators."

In a letter to Senate Commerce Committee chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.) and Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R., Miss.), the league's president and CEO claim that "during her tenure as a senior advisor to the FCC," Sohn "did not support nor advance Latino or minority ownership in the media landscape."

Progressive Latino groups say Biden owes the Hispanic community a Hispanic commissioner in the FCC role, and are already lobbying for the Biden administration to choose one if Sohn cannot be confirmed. "If for any reason her nomination falls through, we will double down in our urging the president that this time he appoint a Hispanic," National Hispanic Leadership Agenda chairman Kenneth Romero told Bloomberg Law.

Hispanic groups' opposition is the latest setback in Sohn's bumpy confirmation process. Lawmakers from both parties have raised concerns with Sohn's tenure on the board of Locast, a defunct, illegal TV streaming service. Wicker tells the Free Beacon that Sohn's nomination was delayed last year due to "the seriousness of the issues surrounding the specifics of her ethics agreement."

Both Wicker and Cantwell have asked for more information from ethics officials about Sohn's relationship with Locast.