No One Had Trouble Saying Jessica
By Ted Hearn, Editor of Policyband
Washington, D.C., Dec. 1, 2023 – Jessica Rosenworcel is a fantastic witness.
The Chair of the Federal Communications Commission was at her best Thursday morning on Capitol Hill during a lengthy oversight session before the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.
Smart and serious, Rosenworcel sat for nearly two-and-half hours responding to questions tossed her way with data, precision and an occasional legislative recommendation or two.
Her four FCC colleagues – Brendan Carr, Geoffrey Starks, Nathan Simington, and Anna Gomez – also showed impressive mastery over the intricacies of the dizzyingly complex regulatory regime they are charged with enforcing.
Unfortunately, several members of the Subcommittee did not come as prepared as the Commissioners – perhaps as a result of poor staffing or lack of interest in the issues before the FCC or maybe a combination of the two. In any case, the results were somewhat of an embarrassment.
At least five Subcommittee members struggled with something kind of basic – how to pronounce Rosenworcel.
Let's start with Rep. John Joyce, Republican of Pennsylvania.
As he was about to ask his first question, he stumbled. “Chairwoman Worsensosol …” He paused. He was contrite. “I’m sorry, Chairwoman Rosenworcel.”
The confusion was bipartisan.
Rep. Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, botched Rosenworcel not once but twice. Dingell came up with “Chair Rosensaul” the first time and something akin to “Chairwoman Rosensol” the second.
Some lawmakers decided the name Rosenworcel was just too tough.
Here’s Rosenworcel’s exchange with Rep. Randy Weber, Republican of Texas.
Weber: “Chairwoman, pronounce your last name for me?”
Rosenworcel: “It’s Rosenworcel.”
Weber: “Rosenworcel – I figured that, but it looked too easy.”
Rosenworcel: “I know, it’s long. It can intimidate a little bit.”
Weber: “Have you had that name long – we won’t go there.”
Weber’s final comment likely deserves induction into the Hall of Fame for non sequiturs.
Rep. Troy Balderson, Republican of Ohio, came up with this: “My next question is for Madame Chair Rossinworcel, worzel? I got to force myself to say it.”
Finally, there was Rep. Kat Cammack, Republican of Florida, one of the last to question the FCC panel.
Like Rep. Weber, she bailed on giving Rosenworcel a try: ‘Madame Chairwoman, I’m going to butcher your last name, so I’m not even going to try it, just out of respect.”
Evan Swarztrauber, a former advisor to Carr and former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, sensed the ridiculous and took to the X social media platform yesterday to post this observation: “This may be a hot take, but Rosenworcel is not a difficult last name to pronounce.”
There were other gaffes of note concerning Commissioners Simington and Gomez.
Rep. Rick Allen, Republican of Georgia, wasn’t quite sure if it was Simington or Simmington.
No one expects lawmakers to have encyclopedic knowledge of the FCC. Nevertheless, command of the facts can help deflect reputational harm.
For example, Rep. Darren Soto, Democrat of Florida, turned to Gomez and said, “We’re proud you became the first Latina to serve on the FCC.”
Correction: That honor belongs to former Democratic FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani (1997-2001).
California Democrat Rep. Tony Cardenas, speaking several minutes after Soto’s turn, set the record straight: “Commissioner Gomez is the first Latina to serve as an FCC Commissioner in over two decades.”
It’s probably not the job of House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican of Washington, to suggest to members that they should arrive at hearings better prepared, including knowing how to pronounce the surname of the incumbent FCC Chair.
Maybe McMorris Rodgers would make that point if the day ever comes when former FCC Commissioner Harold W. Furchtgott-Roth consents to return to the agency as Rosenworcel’s Republican successor.