Officials with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) blasted The Washington Post Friday over a story alleging that the FCC’s Chairman Ajit Pai is getting too cozy with the White House.
Pai’s chief of staff, Matthew Berry, said in a tweet that WaPo reporter Brian Fung invented a fake meeting between President Donald Trump and Chairman Pai.
— Matthew Berry (@matthewberryfcc) June 23, 2017
The Washington Post suggested that Pai met with Trump on Thursday as part of a larger meeting with tech industry leaders. While Pai did attend a breakout session with tech leaders as part of a general conversation about policy, he did not meet with Trump. He left at 9:45 a.m. for an FCC Open Meeting, according to the spokesman. Nathan Leamer, a policy advisor with Pai’s office, also took issue with the story.
— @NathanLeamerFCC (@nathanleamerfcc) June 23, 2017
“It was not based on the facts of yesterday’s events,” a source close to the Chairman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
If true, concerns that Pai is getting too cozy with the White House would be problematic because of the FCC’s status as an independent government agency.
John Simpson, an advocate for Consumer Watchdog who is quoted in the WaPo story, said that Pai should not have been at the White House function.
Fung, a tech reporter for WaPo, told TheDCNF that the mistake was unintentional. While a correction was issued, he said Simpson remained critical of Pai.
“We went back to Simpson, who continued to say the FCC chairman’s involvement in the White House event was problematic in the first place,” Fung told TheDCNF.
Pai has met with the president just once since his election, and has been pushing an agenda that squares away with his long-held positions on FCC policy, according to his office.
“There’s little evidence to suggest anything out of the ordinary transpired in those early meetings. And prior FCC chairs have also shared close relationships with the leader of the free world,” Fung said seven paragraphs down in piece.
Critics of Pai immediately shared the story as proof that Pai was getting too cozy to the Trump administration. Free Press, an ardent critic of Pai and the Trump administration, retweeted the story.
— TimKarr (@TimKarr) June 23, 2017
Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was often criticized for what some viewed as a close relationship to former President Barack Obama.
Concerns that Wheeler was close to Obama wasn’t without merit. Wheeler was a big campaign bundler for Obama, raising between $200,000 and $500,000 for the president ahead of his 2008 presidential campaign according to Open Secrets. Wheeler gave Obama $38,500 from his own pockets between 2008 and 2011.
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