While a majority of the (real) comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have been in support of net neutrality laws, chairman Ajit Pai isn’t shy to joke about supporters’ concerns of internet service providers taking advantage of consumers.
In a leaked video of his “self-roast” at the annual Federal Communications Bar Association gathering, Pai pretends to admit to being a shill from Verizon, where he worked as an attorney before joining the FCC in 2007. Gizmodo obtained and reported on the video of Pai’s nearly-30 minute speech, sent in by a “stealthy tipster.”
In the bit, Pai jokes, “In collusion—I mean, in conclusion, sorry, my bad—many people are still shell-shocked that I’m up here tonight.”
“They ask themselves, ‘How on earth did this happen?’” Pai says, before concluding he can “no longer hide from the truth” and shows a “leaked, 14-year-old video” purportedly taped in 2003 at Verizon’s Washington D.C. office.
The video, a skit essentially making fun of people who see Pai as a pawn for telecom companies, shows a Verizon executive, later identified as Verizon senior vice president and deputy general counsel Kathy Grillo, talking to Pai, telling him, “As you know, the FCC is captured by the industry, but we think it’s not captured enough, so we have a plan.”
Pai then asks, “What plans do you have in mind?”
“We want to brainwash and groom a Verizon puppet to install as FCC chairman. Think ‘Manchurian Candidate,’” Grillo responds, referring to the 1962 novel-turned-movie about U.S. soldiers who were brainwashed into becoming sleeper agents as part of a Communist conspiracy.
Grillo then says they’ll need an “outsider” for president in order to carry out the plan in 14 years’ time with the intro to President Donald Trump’s The Apprentice rolling on a screen in the background.
“And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I became chairman of the FCC,” Pai quips.
Across Twitter, people are tearing apart Pai’s “joke,” many expressing disagreement with his comedic timing (the FCC is scheduled to vote on net neutrality laws on Dec. 14) and the fact that he’s taking the concerns of Americans so lightly.
Ajit Pai has proven in the past that he’s profoundly terrible at telling a joke. Comedy is timing, and Pai thought it was a great moment to get a laugh out of the fact that he’s dismantling the internet at the behest of telecoms: https://t.co/bFrEgpQMKz
— Free Software Fndn. (@fsf) December 8, 2017
Not sure @AjitPaiFCC knows what a joke is.
— 🎶 O Stone, All Ye Michael 🎵 (@M_G_Stone) December 9, 2017
This is @AjitPaiFCC joking about being a corporate shill. He is doing it openly and with no shame. When is a joke no longer a joke? When it becomes reality. #SaveTheInternet #NetNeutrality https://t.co/IOyHOtNk8h
— Thane Greenfield (@TheLifeofThane) December 9, 2017
Ajit Pai is laughing at you https://t.co/JOFTKtvuJJ
— Gizmodo (@Gizmodo) December 9, 2017
Meanwhile, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has accused the agency of withholding evidence of fraud regarding the millions of anti-net neutrality comments submitted to the FCC by bots.
“To put it simply, there is evidence in the FCC’s files that fraud has occurred, and the FCC is telling law enforcement and victims of identity theft that it is not going to help,” Rosenworcel told Gizmodo in a statement. “Moreover, the FCC refuses to look into how nearly half a million comments came from Russian sources. Failure to investigate this corrupted record undermines our process for seeking public input in the digital age.”