Blumenthal Threatens Hold on Simington FCC Nomination

Sen. Richard Blumenthal
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) (Image credit: U.S. Senate)

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he will put a hold on the nomination of Nate Simington for a Republican seat on the FCC until and unless he commits to recusing himself from any decision on the fate of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the legal provision that gives social media networks immunity from civil liability for how they moderate their networks.

That came at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Simington's nomination and after Simington told Blumenthal that he had participated in the writing of the petition by the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) to the FCC seeking modification/clarification of Section 230, and that he would support that effort if confirmed to the FCC. He pointed to the FCC general counsel's explanation of why the agency had the authority to weigh in on Section 230.

Simington also said he had had conversations with the White House about Sec. 230 when he was being considered for the FCC nomination. Simington was nominated after President Donald Trump pulled the nomination of Michael O'Rielly after O’Rielly criticized the effort to regulate Section 230 and questioned the FCC's authority to do so.

While he said it was premature to say he would recuse himself, Simington did say he would get the advice of FCC ethics officials on whether he should recuse and follow that advice, whatever it is.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chairman of the committee, tried to help the nominee out by pointing out during his questioning that willingness by Simington to rely on that advice. Wicker also pointed highlighted Simington’s explanation that he was not in on the drafting of the NTIA policy, simply the editing and “blocking and tackling” of the issue, which he said meant he had only written about 5-7% of the petition. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.