Without giving a reason President Trump has withdrawn the nomination of FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly to The FCC. O’Rielly has been with the Commission since 2013 and was facing confirmation for another term that would have kept him at the agency through 2024. Here’s what we know.
There are two possible reasons Trump soured on O’Rielly. The first has to do with Social Media.
O’Rielly had been openly skeptical about President Trump’s criticism of social media platforms. Trump recently issued an executive order which would give the FCC oversight to moderate social media. Back in June O’Rielly expressed his deep reservations about the executive order in a C-SPAN interview. The president and others have complained that the big tech platforms like Facebook and Twitter are biased against conservatives in the way they moderate content.
O’Rielly, who is a conservative, made a speech at the Media Institute last week. Here’s what he said about the issue. “The First Amendment protects us from limits on speech imposed by the government—not private actors—and we should all reject demands, in the name of the First Amendment, for private actors to curate or publish speech in a certain way. Like it or not, the First Amendment’s protections apply to corporate entities, especially when they engage in editorial decision making. I shudder to think of a day in which the Fairness Doctrine could be reincarnated for the Internet, especially at the ironic behest of so-called free speech ‘defenders.’”
The other possible issue involves a 5G network the FCC approved in a 5-0 vote operated by Ligado networks. The network would operate on the L-band spectrum which is now being used for GPS and radar. There are concerns that the network would interfere with the GPS and radar systems, despite Ligado’s assurances. Republican Senator James Inhofe blocked O’Rielly’s confirmation before the White House yanked him. He wanted O’Rielly to publicly state he would vote to overturn the Ligado Order.
So what happens to O’Rielly and his FCC seat now? During an election year it’s anybody’s guess.
Here’s what NAB CEO Gordon Smith said about the White House move. “Mike O’Rielly has been a sterling public servant for as long as I have had the privilege of knowing him, a span of time covering my years in the Senate and throughout my time leading NAB. He is the consummate professional—smart, diligent, honest, and fair. For these and many other reasons, NAB has been proud to support his continued service at the Commission. But for these reasons also, I have every confidence that he will succeed wherever he casts his lot.”