White House Yanks FCC Nominee Who Bucked Social-Media Plan

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The White House withdrew the nomination of Michael O’Rielly, who has expressed doubt about President Donald Trump’s plan to reduce legal protections for social media, for another term at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

The White House announced the action Monday in a notice sent to the Senate, which confirms nominees. The notice didn’t provide a reason for the decision.

The FCC has a 3-2 Republican majority, and the vote of O’Rielly, a Republican, could be needed to advance Trump’s initiative. Both of the agency’s Democrats have expressed opposition to the president’s drive to narrow the shield against legal liability for companies such as Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc.

“The First Amendment protects us from limits on speech imposed by the government -- not private actors,” O’Rielly said in a July 29 speech.

“I shudder to think of a day in which the Fairness Doctrine could be reincarnated for the internet,” he said.

If O’Rielly opposes the president’s initiative as he has signaled, pulling the nomination means Trump “can’t possibly get favorable action” from the FCC, said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, a Washington media attorney.

O’Rielly’s nomination cleared the Senate Commerce Committee last month. He has been a member of the FCC since 2013, after working as a congressional staff member.

Brian Hart, an FCC spokesman, declined to comment.

Gigi Sohn, a former FCC official, for her part raised the prospect that the nomination was pulled due to the administration’s social-media drive at the FCC, in a tweet on Monday.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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