Written by Nick Heer.

White House Retracts Renomination of FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly

Jon Brodkin, reporting in June for Ars Technica:

Michael O’Rielly, part of the FCC’s 3-2 Republican majority, says he has doubts about whether the FCC has authority to implement Trump’s order regarding Twitter and other online platforms. With Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr having enthusiastically endorsed Trump’s executive order and Democrats opposed to it, the views of O’Rielly and Chairman Ajit Pai will play a big role in determining the outcome.

O’Rielly discussed the topic on C-SPAN last week, saying he won’t take a position until he has researched the topic more thoroughly. “I haven’t taken a position because I have to do my homework,” O’Rielly said, adding that he has “deep reservations” that the FCC has authority to act as Trump directed.

Paul Mclane, reporting last week for Radio World:

And he opined on the First Amendment, criticizing “certain opportunists” who claim to advocate for the amendment “but who are only willing to defend it when convenient and constantly shift its meaning to fit their current political objectives.”

He said, “We should all reject demands, in the name of the First Amendment, for private actors to curate or publish speech in a certain way. I shudder to think of a day in which the Fairness Doctrine could be reincarnated by some other name, especially at the ironic behest of so-called speech ‘defenders.’”

And he said the amendment’s protections apply to corporate entities, “especially when they engage in editorial decision making. It is time to stop allowing purveyors of First Amendment gibberish to claim they support more speech, when their actions make clear that they would actually curtail it through government action.”

Tom McKay, Gizmodo:

The White House has yanked its nomination to give GOP Federal Communications Commissioner Mike O’Rielly another term at the agency, offering no explanation as to why.


Another simpler, more migraine-triggering reason, though, might be that the White House thinks O’Rielly is standing in the way of its effort to have the FCC investigate and punish tech companies for alleged discrimination against conservatives. In late May, Trump issued an executive order that would direct the FCC to look into claims tech companies are secretly plotting to deplatform and censor right-wingers — a conspiracy theory that has become one of his administration’s major talking points — and threaten those companies with the loss of key Section 230 liability protections.

This line of speculation is not outlandish; former FCC special counsel Gigi Sohn heard the same. It is also reflective of meddling in an independent body that would once be seen as scandalous and worthy of an investigation — recall, for instance, the time FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler was hauled in front of a House panel because President Obama said net neutrality was important.

Quick side note: even though this administration and its acolytes are obsessed with the delusion that conservatives are somehow treated unfairly by social media companies, they do not seem eager to prove it. Republican representatives derailed last week’s antitrust hearing and the President issued an order in May to investigate “selective censorship”, but the White House has not yet passed along the complaints it received about social media bias to the FTC, as it said it would. It has been months; how long can it possibly take to email a CSV file?

The White House is apparently so upset with O’Rielly for correctly stating that companies are allowed to moderate their platforms as they choose that it won’t give him another term, but it will not follow through with the underlying documentation to support its Executive Order.